Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
James Bond at the baccarat table. James Garner bluffing his way through a crooked poker game in a dusty Western saloon. We love the idea of the hero knocking out the bad guy in a good game of chance. Why, then, are Liberals so up in arms about Mr. Obama’s latest big gamble?
You don’t have to be much of a poker player to know that Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell are coming to the table without any chips. Thanks to many deals with the Devil that they have made with everyone from the Religious Right to the absolute lunatic fringes of society, their bankers are now the Tea Party. Think of them as that psychotic, weazly little guy in those casino or saloon scenes who just wants to shoot up the room, set fire to the tables, and be done with it.
Mr. Obama knows, after years of having the most reasonable compromises in town, that the bad guys are not going to give an inch to the new black sheriff. It’s been proven time and again. Each time, from health care reform to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), Mr. Obama has laid out a high stakes hand, putting Liberal sacred cows in to sweeten the pot not for the Right, but for a bigger audience: The silent majority.
President Obama is not Bill Clinton. He doesn’t run government by poll. He also doesn’t have his party in anything resembling lock-step, so votes to pass anything are always a problem.
What Mr. Obama has is a pretty adept understanding of how to manipulate public opinion well. The name of the game that he and the Republicans are playing is Five Card Reasonable. It’s a game that the Republicans are losing. The Los Angeles Times reports:
“A new Quinnipiac survey released Thursday showed that, 48%-34%, voters would blame Republicans instead of Obama if the debt limit is not raised and the nation defaults. Voters also support his call for a “balanced package” that includes both new revenues and spending cuts.” 
To put out stakes that you know the Republicans, were they not under control of the Tea Party, would snap at shows that big middle that Mr. Obama is willing to bring personally and politically painful cards to the table. It wins hearts and minds on the core issues with independent voters, and turns them into allies.
The same poll showed that a majority of people agree with the president that the 3% tax break for the richest Americans should be ended. PoliticsUSA reports:
“Over 2/3 (67%) of those polled thought that the debt ceiling deal should include tax increases on the wealthy and corporations along with spending cuts.” 
Mr. Obama isn’t going to catch much of a break on his popularity numbers, which are effectively dead even, or take less heat from the public. His handling of the economy, along with the rest of Congress, is taking a drubbing, but Americans aren’t biting on the GOP drumbeat that somehow he is to blame for all of it.
“By a margin of 54%-27% [poll respondents] still blame Bush, not Obama for the recession. By a 2-1 split, (49%-24%) Independent voters said Bush was more responsible for the economy than Obama.” 
That is an important number for the general election in November of 2012. More telling, though, as to how Mr. Obama sits at the budget poker table, was this:
“Personal likability is a big factor is how Obama is politically surviving the rough economy. Seventy one percent of those polled said they personally like the President. Seventy percent of Independents said they personally liked the President, and even Republicans by a margin of 49%-32% said they personally liked Obama.”
The Republicans face the uphill battle of showing that they were not responsible for the mess that they created during the Bush years. Even if they could Fox News their way out of that PR nightmare, they still have to contend with the fact that they have no figure, including the daffy Michelle Bachmann, who is charismatic enough with the general electorate to get past the well-funded and charismatic Mr. Obama.
Obama’s trump card has been his reasonableness. It’s a sexy feature in a politician in bitterly partisan times. It makes the job of Mr. Boehner, a snake oil salesman of great renowned, and Roger Ailes, the Godfather of Fox News, to get support for either their current ginning up of the Debt Ceiling debate or to win broad support for the idealistic jihad that the Tea Party Republicans have been waging in the House in and state governments around the nation.
What is truly amazing, though, is that the Republicans are so hell bent on preserving the tax cuts for the wealthy, even when polling like this shows, again and again, that even Republican voters get the idea that some revenue is going to have to be raised along with any cuts made in government spending.
As much as we all love liberal firebrand Bernie Sanders, who has been the nervous deputy sheriff watching Mr. Obama and freaking out about putting cuts to the social safety net programs on the table , it is a bluff.
Mr. Obama knows that the politically opportunistic Republicans like Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell can’t call. Their bankers are the black-clad, tight-lipped humorless holier-than-thou group holding their bibles and their absolutist beliefs equally tight. If the Speaker and the Minority Leader move to call Mr. Obama’s bluff, and raise taxes on the rich and corporations to grab those social program cuts they’ve long, long wanted, the Koch-backed Tea Party will go ballistic. Their many minions engrained in the grass roots of the Republican base like dandelions on a golf course putting green will choke the life out of their 2012 campaign to regain power.
The pressure is on the GOP to come up with a way of overriding the Teahadis and find some face-saving way of keeping their party from adding another global financial melt-down to their many accomplishments of wars and deregulating Wall Street to the point of financial collapse.
Mr. Obama is holding the hot hand. Liberals need to get a grip, and watch what happens at the end of this particular game. Given the tracking numbers on things that matter, jobs, the economy, and raising revenue, look for Mr. Obama and the Democrats to be able to make a strong case for tossing the Teahadis out of government and getting the people’s business on jobs and the economy done.
Pull up the horses to the limo, and cue the theme song:
When Teahadis ruled the US
And fear filled the land
A cry went out for a man with guts to take Congress in hand
They needed a man who was brave and true, with justice for all as his aim
Then out of the din rode a man with a grin
And Obama was his name
Yes Obama was his name
He carved blazing trails
He was a shining star
His job to beat back Ailes and Teahadis near and far
He conquered fear and he conquered hate
He turned dark night into day
He made his reasonability a torch to light the way
My shiny two.