The full transcript is available here. All I have got to say is, amen, Mr. President! This President has been taking it from the puritan Left and the insane Right, and he decided he had had enough. It was time for some straight talk with both Republicans and Democrats. Guys, this was the President of the United States. All the United States. He explained the tax and unemployment insurance deal he made last night and didn't spare the rod.
The President knew he would have to face questions about the ideological left attacking his principles, and boy did he come ready. "This is the public option debate all over again," he shot back, reminding us that there were those on the Left who tried to kill the whole health care reform bill because they didn't get the public option - damn the larger impact of the health care law in helping 32 million additional Americans gain health insurance coverage.
Now, if that’s the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let’s face it, we will never get anything done. People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime, the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of preexisting conditions or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.Hammer, nail, on the head. The truly sad thing is though that many faux-gressives and (foxgressives) would in fact not get anything done and spend all day yelling at the other side; or better yet, yelling at their allies for not being pure enough. The President also reminded the Left puritans that the very people they lionize now did not start the programs that make them lions in the perfect forms.
This is a big, diverse country. Not everybody agrees with us. I know that shocks people. The New York Times editorial page does not permeate across all of America. Neither does The Wall Street Journal editorial page. Most Americans, they’re just trying to figure out how to go about their lives and how can we make sure that our elected officials are looking out for us. And that means because it’s a big, diverse country and people have a lot of complicated positions, it means that in order to get stuff done, we’re going to compromise. This is why FDR, when he started Social Security, it only affected widows and orphans. You did not qualify. And yet now it is something that really helps a lot of people. When Medicare was started, it was a small program. It grew.Don't think for a moment though that the President went easy on the Republicans in Congress. He compared them with hostage-takers, and the compromise with hostage negotiations. Again, I don't think anyone can say it better than the President himself:
I think it’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers, unless the hostage gets harmed. Then people will question the wisdom of that strategy. In this case, the hostage was the American people and I was not willing to see them get harmed.Ohhh, snap! There he was, the President of all of the United States, responsible for tens of millions of ordinary Americans, being - in the words of blackwaterdog - the only adult in the room. And the President looked ready for a fight. The Republicans held the middle class and the jobless hostage, and the President had to pay a ransom - in the form of extending the tax benefits for the wealthy for two years. But as the President has said, Republicans didn't get everything either. Gone are their demands that unemployment extensions have to always be paid for on the spot. The Republicans in Congress - almost to a person - opposed the Obama tax relief for middle class families and help for students in 2009, and now they must extend them.
The President is ready for a fight. But what he's not willing to do is to make ordinary Americans, jobless Americans and struggling students collateral damage in that fight. If there is one person looking out for ordinary Americans in Washington, it is, to our great fortune, the man in the Oval Office. But once the deal is done, and Congress extends help for the jobless, students, the working poor and the middle class (yes, the deal for the rich is the price to pay for that for now), in the next two years, as the President said, the country can have a debate. In that debate, the American people are already on the President's side. With help for ordinary Americans extended before the end of this Congress, Republicans will lose that leverage in the next Congress.
And if you think conservative intellectuals haven't noticed, you aren't paying attention. Andrew Sullivan dished it out thusly: Obama: President; McConnell: Sucker. First, Sullivan on substance.
Substantively, the Dish is in some ways horrified that the result of the last election - which was dominated by the view that deficits need to be controlled and that new stimulus is evil - turned out to be ... a new bipartisan stimulus package financed by borrowing! At the same time, it's clear that this also clears the stage for a two-year fight over long-term fiscal balance, distinct from the short-term need to recover from recession. And that is the best context for serious reform. If we reform the tax code, and cut entitlements and defense, we should do so for structural, long-term reasons, not in response to a particular crisis. That's the chance we now have, if Obama leads the way (as I suspect he will).And then Sullivan moves to show Obama's strategic brilliance.
At some point, I suspect, the Congress will have to decide between extending the payroll tax holiday or keeping the Bush tax cuts for millionaires - the double-track of the current Keynesian deal. I think Obama wins on that one, and has set up the kind of future choice the GOP really doesn't want to make. What he has done, in other words, is avoid an all-out fight over short-term taxes and spending now in the wake of a big GOP victory in order to set up the real debate about long-term taxes and spending over the next two years, leading into a pivotal 2012 election that could set the fiscal and political direction of this country for decades, an election in which he may well have much more of an advantage than he does now.I couldn't have said it any better myself. The question is, if conservative intellectuals understand this, why don't the ideologues on the Left, with all of its poetic waxing about intellectual gravitas? The answer, I'm afraid, is one of three disappointingly short possibilities. In no particular order:
Possibility one is that the tax cut battle is one we really wanted to win, and having to trade that away for a compromise really sucks (well, it does), and damn all the other parts of the deal, the line in the sand must stay there! This is the righteous, indignant, sanctimonious crowd.
The second possibility is that thanks to the 24 hour media cycle, we have rendered ourselves incapable of thinking beyond short term wins and losses. We keep wanting to win the battle at hand, whereas the President has his eye on winning the war for the future of this country. This is the duped crowd.
Of course, there's a third possibility. There's always a third possibility. It, I am afraid, applies to the people angrily screaming at the ether, for the most part: puritans who cannot bear to see the President actually accomplish anything, i.e. the Why-won't-he-listen-to-meee crowd.
ACTION: Let's please be smart about this. Start calling your members of Congress and Senators - Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, authoritarians, libertarians and vegetarians - and tell them for the good of the country they must look past ideological bents and vote for this deal. House.gov and Senate.gov are your friends. Write letters to the Editor of your local paper. Do it. It really makes a difference. Show the President that not only does he have our back but that we have his, too. Let this be your act of patriotism today.