Monday, August 08, 2011

Can hostage-takers blame a hostage situation on the President?

Yesterday I received an email, one of those supposedly "funny" forwards that are sent on by well-meaning family, which quoted an anonymous stock broker blaming the current state of the economy on "this administration." The email went on to encourage me to see if my broker agreed.

Let's ignore, for a moment, the tone-deafness of a plea to the general public encouraging us to talk to the stock brokers most of us don't have. Blaming this administration for all our economic woes is not only ignorant, but it's insulting in that it's part of a transparent agenda that depends on our stupidity.

But it takes two to tango, right? Obama can certainly be blamed for not making a case clearly to the American people. I can't argue with that. He's done a terrible job of framing the issues. Too many Americans thought the debt ceiling was about increasing the size of government, rather than paying the bills we'd already incurred, mostly under Republicans. It's worth wondering what compulsion drives him to such weak negotiating positions. Is it cowardice? Is it an obsessive desire for bipartisanship? Is he too in bed with Wall Street to call them on their role in the economic downturn, and too dependent on wealthy donors to ask them to pay their fair share? Is it a hyper-focus on the independent voter and on re-election? If so, he may very well be doomed to fail in the next election precisely because he sought to placate the middle and thus compromised his way to their right, demotivating enough of the left to erode his own base.

But blaming this economy on the ineptitude of the administration's negotiating abilities ignores something that deserves more of our attention. If we're in the state we're in because Obama can't properly negotiate with Republicans, why should we possibly consider turning the keys to the car over to the people who pulled us into a ditch because they really wanted to drive us off a cliff? Bi-partisan compromise deserves bi-partisan blame. If we acknowledge that Obama got rolled, then the bulk of the blame needs to be with the side that pulled him so far away from what he wanted.

It takes two to tango, but hostage-takers are not dance partners. Saying the Republicans are hostage-takers is not liberal propaganda. Mitch McConnell, the most moderate of the Republicans involved in leading these debt negotiations, admitted to the strategy. “I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting,” he said. “Most of us didn’t think that. What we did learn is this — it’s a hostage that’s worth ransoming. And it focuses the Congress on something that must be done.” In essence, "most" didn't want to bankrupt the country by refusing to pay our bills, but they knew Democrats cared more about preserving the economy than they did, and would be willing to give in to their demands. It's smart strategy. It's also shocking he would be so honest about it. But then, this is the same moderate Republican who admitted “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Not jobs. Not the security of the country. Undermining the President is the number one goal.

McConnell's honesty is refreshing, but it makes the email I received all the more infuriating. Imagine if someone walked up to you and said, is the clearest possible terms, "I'm going to punch you in the face. After I do, I want you to blame that guy over there for any pain you feel."

Wham! Stars.

As you reel back, would you ignore the man standing right in front of you with your blood on his fist and say, "What just happened? I don't understand what is causing this pain, but I seem to remember something about that guy across the room. He must have done this to me!"

Obama is certainly to blame for not confronting far-right Tea Party rhetoric more directly. He should have crossed the room and defended the American middle class from the guy threatening to punch us in the face. If we decide we need someone else to protect us because of his failure, that's sensible. We're bleeding, after all. But if we choose to look for protection from the very people who bloodied our collective nose just because they point at the President, we are responsible for the pummeling we're gonna' get.


'abdul muHib said...

Well said. Going to post it on my page. Reminds me too of the classic Nazi tactic of Sophie's Choice. "Which child do you want dead? You must choose. Then the morality of the choice falls on you."

Anonymous said...

Yet so many will beleive the right wing rehtoric instead of thinking for themselves.