Barack Obama: talk loudly and carry a little stick (or, Mr. Obama sells a horse)
I’ve been thinking on Obama’s recent outbreak of backbone. Standing up to his FCC appointee on Net Neutrality was a fun start, and a lot of folks are welcoming the fact that finally, after six long years, he’s beginning to act with a little courage.
Maybe. Maybe he realizes that he has two years left and no more elections to deal with, and this is his chance to go out swinging.
Or maybe not. How many times since 2008 – go ahead and count them up, I’ll wait – have you heard somebody say that X was the best he could have hoped for with all that GOP opposition? If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this with respect to health care alone I could buy us all a nice steak dinner somewhere.
There are times when that has almost felt like his brand: Obama – the best that could have been done under the circumstances. See if we can get that on a bumper sticker.
The perceived insurmountability of the Republican opposition … if you’re as cynical as I am, you might be thinking that perception, those painfully lowered expectations, the knowledge that you were beaten before the war started, all that was pretty good cover for a guy who was ultimately a corporate pawn with absolutely no interest in upsetting the chess board.
Remember, this is a president whose fondest dream seems to be to stand as all things to all people. The ultimate Biparticrat. And in order to do that, you have to find a way to make sure Wall St. isn’t mad, nor are all the Hopey Changey folks who voted for you. So give the 1% what they want (and with this bunch money talks and bullshit walks, bitches) and use that doomed-by-those-mean-GOPpers meme to pacify everybody else – not a bad strategy.
But he had to modulate his efforts. After all, he did have one house of Congress on his side, so there was a balancing act – how hard could he pretend to push without accidentally doing something?
He had to play it safe, which meant that sometimes he had to surrender before the fight started. Let’s illustrate the president’s approach to playing hardball with a brief vignette.
Barack Obama Sells a Horse
A play in one act.
Mr. Obama – a practitioner of animal husbandry
Mr. Boehner – a gentleman of Washington
Scene: A rotunda.
Obama: Hey, John, want to buy a horse?
Boehner (beginning to cry): How much are you asking for it?
Obama: Oh, I don’t know. $100 seems fair.
Boehner: I’ll give you $75.
Obama: $75? Are you kidding me? This horse is worth at least $50.
Boehner (weeping uncontrollably): That’s highway robbery! I won’t give you cent more than $25.
Obama: John, you’re killing me here. Okay, fine. America needs the money. $10. Final offer.
Boehner: Can’t do it, Barry. (Turns, as if to leave. Wipes eyes and blows nose on sleeve.)
Obama: All right, all right. You drive a hard bargain, John. I’ll give you $100 to take the horse. That’s the best I can do. Deal?
[Fade to black.]
If he were a football coach and his team was an underdog this Saturday, well hell, let’s just go ahead and forfeit.
We did our best, under the circumstances.
In the wake of Nov. 4’s Midterm Massacre the dynamic has changed. Now he has zero houses of Congress to back him and absolutely, positively no chance of getting anything meaningful done. Which means he doesn’t have to be careful anymore. He can raise all the hell he wants, enhancing his “legacy” without having to hold back.
The last couple weeks are just the beginning, I suspect. We’re now about to see two years of crusading, righteous, ball-stomping ass whippingness from the man who brought us Change We Can Believe In®. When all is said and done, a lot will be said and nothing done.
Because, you know, what could he do under the circumstances?
As I say, I’m a cynical fuck. So prove me wrong.