Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Obama the "Fence Sitter"

This is a link to an article in today's NY Times entitled "Debt-Busting Issue May Force Obama Off Fence." According to this analysis, Obama has been sitting on the fence, that is, trying to placate both independent voters and his "base" or the "liberals." However, according to this analysis, Obama is soon to be forced off the fence because he will have to make a choice to with regard to the Bush tax cuts and with regard to spending on items like Medicaid and Social Security. A couple of things in response:

(1) Notice that according to the headline the issue is the "debt-busting issue." So, if this is how the issue is described then it would appear that Obama - or anyone else - has few choices and among those choices will be some compromise on both taxes and spending. Despite all the "noise" coming out of Washington these days, it is already clear that Obama will "fold" regarding the Bush tax cuts and their application to the very, very wealthy. They will be preserved and Obama will present this as only "realistic" or "pragmatic." And regarding spending, the die is already cast in that Obama has frozen federal wages for two years, saying that these workers are "patriots" and so will understand and accept the need for sacrifice. Apparently, these workers are to sacrifice but not the very, very wealthy. Guess which way the wind is blowing?

(2) The article is written in a way that one gets the impression that Obama really didn't want to sit on the fence but had to given the "lay of the land." Ah, but consider an alternative: Obama sat of the fence, knowing that by doing so he would end up in the position he is in today and "having" to make the "choices" he is now making. This would be because those choices are not all that distasteful to Obama. In fact, he rather likes those choices and by making them he is trying to guarantee his re-election in 2012. This may or may not work but it means that Obama is putting his self-interest ahead of the public interest or interpreting the public interest in light of his self-interest. Why is it that this alternative and logic, when it describes what can only be described as a common political phenomenon, is overlooked?

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