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How Can Obama Be a Commie and Cut Taxes for the Rich?

Brian Beutler argues that President Obama’s tax cut compromise with the Republicans is “portentous.”

How is it that the conservative movement spent two years characterizing Barack Obama as a socialislamokenyan just to the right of Stalin, turning him into a figure so noxious to the GOP base that Republicans only negotiated with him at their peril… and then suddenly, a month after the election, Republican leaders sit down with his administration, and hash out a tax plan and everyone from Olympia Snowe to Mitch McConnell to Paul Ryan walks away celebrating.

In a posting titled “How Do You Compromise With Stalin?Andrew Sullivan enthusiastically agrees, adding:

The most powerul aspect of this entire deal is how it has delivered a body-blow to the FNC/Limbaugh/RNC notion that Obama is an enemy and an alien and a threat. Instead, he’s now the architect of a deal with that most rightwing of Republicans, Mitch McConnell, a deal that legitimizes Obama on the right with consequences McConnell probably hasn’t completely absorbed yet. Maybe this was an inevitable consequence of the GOP assuming some responsibility in running the country. But it has pricked that balloon of demonization that has given much of the right its energy these past two years.

First of all, I’d note that American leaders routinely compromised with the actual Stalin, who was our ally during World War II. The nature of politics is that one does one’s best to advance one’s interests under the circumstances that present themselves.  Just as Roosevelt and Truman compromised with Stalin because we needed Soviet cooperation and he was the Soviet leader, McConnell compromised with Obama because he’s the President of the United States and will be, barring tragedy, until noon on 20 January 2013.

Second, McConnell is so far from being the “most rightwing of Republicans” that it’s not even funny.  He’s a fairly mainstream conservative who’s pushed to take hard line stances as a negotiating front in his position as party leader.  (I’ve been arguing the same, incidentally, about Harry Reid for years.  He was a moderate Democrat, even a slightly conservative Democrat, before becoming Leader.)

Third, while I argued in yesterday’s “Obama’s Sister Souljah Moment?” posting that the deal was very smart politics for the president in that it both distances him from the more radical elements of his own base and “both belies the Republicans’ newfound zeal for fiscal responsibility and makes it harder to keep the Tea Party zealots on the reservation,” it overshoots the mark by several miles to think this is “a body-blow” to the Republicans or has “pricked the balloon of demonization.”

Republicans will be able to argue — honestly, even! — that Obama wanted to raise taxes and that this was averted only because they forced his hand.  Oh, and the temporary extension of the temporary cuts sets to expire right after the election, which means they can use the issue to demonize him one more time.  Frankly, the “socialist” and “alien” business is red meat grist used to excite one segment of the base.  And those who get their news from Rush Limbaugh and Fox News are going to hate Obama just as much tomorrow as they do today.

Hell, there’s a not insignificant number of people who still think Obama is a Muslim from Kenya who takes his instructions from a Church of Christ minister.  Does anyone think that the scales are going to fall from their eyes because they follow the logic trail on a tax deal?!

UPDATE:  I see that Steven Taylor had a similar though independently of Beutler and Sullivan:  “If Obama is really the socialist (if not Communist!) that he has been so often described to be by his political opponents (and, I will add, by commenters to this blog) then why is he willing to compromise on the tax cuts?”  But, again, I think the logic of this is unlikely to persuade anyone who actually though Obama is a socialist, rather than merely a liberalish Democrat.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Stan says:

    To the monotonically decreasing fraction of sane Republicans, Obama’s tax policy might make them rethink their position. To the rest, he’ll be the same Commie/Nazi/Muslim/Kenyan he’s always been.

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  2. sam says:

    I have to say that this:

    “Did Obama’s tax cut deal demolish the Republican charge that he’s a radical? Not hardly.”

    is a little bit misleading. Fairly read, it says: The Republican charge that Obama is a radical has not been shown to be false by the tax deal. (To “demolish” is to destroy, no?)

    A more accurate statement would have been: Did Obama’s tax cut deal put the kibosh on the Republicans’ willingness to charge that he’s a radical? Not hardly.

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  3. Jay Tea says:

    Flawed assumption here: that Obama is doing so willingly. He was dragged, kicking and screaming, to this point and is still whining about having to do so. One doesn’t get credit for good deeds done with a (rhetorical) gun to one’s head.

    Today, when I drive to and from work without incident (I hope), do I get credit for choosing to obey the traffic laws, keeping my vehicle registered, and not running down any pedestrians? Do I get to hold myself up as a great driver and stupendously moral person for this? Of course not.

    Obama didn’t see the light, he felt the heat. He just admitted he couldn’t get what he wanted — he didn’t change what he wanted.His core principles stay the same.

    J.

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  4. steve says:

    Agreed. His foreign policy is not that much different from the prior administration. His health care plan was similar to the Republican plan of 93. His stimulus was 1/3 tax cuts. Granted, a Republican would not have passed any health care reform, so he is to the left, just not far left.
    This still wont change the cable/talk radio crowd. They make their millions by giving people their daily dose of outrage. Nothing will change.

    Steve

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  5. Herb says:

    “Hell, there’s a not insignificant number of people who still think Obama is a Muslim from Kenya who takes his instructions from a Church of Christ minister. Does anyone think that the scales are going to fall from their eyes because they follow the logic trail on a tax deal?!”

    No, of course not……these people are clearly not reasonable, so they cannot be persuaded by reason.

    “He was dragged, kicking and screaming, to this point and is still whining about having to do so. One doesn’t get credit for good deeds done with a (rhetorical) gun to one’s head. ”

    Not sure that’s entirely fair. What separates the men from the boys is that grown-ups do the right thing even when they don’t want to. To the extent that Republicans think extending the Bush tax cuts was “the right thing,” maybe they should just savor the victory?

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  6. Jay Tea says:

    Herb, almost as important as doing the right thing is not whining about it. If you commit to a compromise, then you commit to it. You can say that you wish you could have done better, that it’s not the best course, but you don’t whine. If it’s so bad, then you should never have agreed to it.

    Me, I’m savoring the victory.

    And the “birthers” — the tiny, stupid minority that they are — have NOTHING to do with this issue. Tarring everyone who doesn’t support Obama enough with that is just plain stupid.

    J.

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  7. sam says:

    “Flawed assumption here: that Obama is doing so willingly. ”

    Eh? Who’s flawed premise?

    @JJ

    “Republicans will be able to argue — honestly, even! — that Obama wanted to raise taxes and that this was averted only because they forced his hand.”

    Even he said himself during his presser that he didn’t like extending the Bush cuts to the rich, but he felt had to because….

    As no credit, well, we’ll see. Check his standing with independents in a few weeks.

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  8. TG Chicago says:

    @Jay Tea

    “Flawed assumption here: that Obama is doing so willingly. He was dragged, kicking and screaming, to this point and is still whining about having to do so.”

    Absolutely false. It’s true that he was not interested in giving tax cuts to incomes over $250k, but he was 100% behind giving tax cuts to incomes below that threshhold.

    That’s the point. If he was such a socialist, he would not have been interested in any tax cuts whatsoever. But he supported the tax cuts in this case and when coming up with the stimulus bill.

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  9. TG Chicago says:

    “Second, McConnell is so far from being the “most rightwing of Republicans” that it’s not even funny. He’s a fairly mainstream conservative who’s pushed to take hard line stances as a negotiating front in his position as party leader.”

    I agree that the superlative goes too far. However, being far out on the right wing IS the mainstream of the Republican Party these days. That’s why the writers here at OTB are no longer a part of the mainstream Republican Party as it currently exists.

    The American Conservative Union gave McConnell a rating of 96 in 2010. Granted that’s down from a perfect 100 in 2006, but not much. He’s not the most rightwing there is, but he’s not as far from it as you claim.

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  10. Pug says:

    …those who get their news from Rush Limbaugh and Fox News are going to hate Obama just as much tomorrow as they do today.

    Those who get their news from Rush Limbaugh and Fox News are called Republicans.

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  11. Alex Knapp says:

    And the “birthers” — the tiny, stupid minority that they are

    30-40% of Republicans is “tiny”?

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  12. James Joyner says:

    30-40% of Republicans is “tiny”?

    Oh, c’mon. Few people are “Birthers” in a legitimate sense. After years of hearing stupid propaganda, a lot of people have been confused into believing that there must therefore be some serious debate on the subject. But it’s a far different thing to not know for sure that he’s a citizen, harboring some iota of doubt, and seriously believing the nonsense.

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  13. Herb says:

    “Herb, almost as important as doing the right thing is not whining about it. ”

    No, the important thing about doing the right thing is….doing the right thing. Whining is perfectly acceptable. If it’s not…..

    I don’t want to hear another Republican whine about paying taxes ever again.

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  14. Herb says:

    “a lot of people have been confused into believing that there must therefore be some serious debate on the subject.”

    Yeah, seems that happens a lot on the right. (See climate change, see also evolution.)

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  15. Steve Plunk says:

    Was anyone really putting Obama just to the right of Stalin? The fact is he leans more to the left than he claimed during the campaign and his compromise is not a tax cut at all. He has been forced into this as a result of his stimulus plan failing and being out of ideas to turn the economy around.

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  16. Wayne says:

    What separates the men form the boys is that grown-ups do the right thing because it is the right thing to do and Boys do it because they are force to.

    Those who get their news from Rush Limbaugh and Fox News are called informed. They get both sides of the story instead of just the liberal side.

    All ribbing aside, when someone is force to compromise it is disingenuous to claim that person was for what they gave up in the compromise. Saying Obama pushed and was for all of Bush’s tax cuts or that Reagan and George H. pushed and were for tax increase is B.S.

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  17. Wayne says:

    Steve
    If the current health care plan was so similar to the Republicans’ one in 93, then why didn’t the Democrats supported and voted for it back in 93?

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  18. mantis says:

    Jay Tea misunderstands the meaning of the word “compromise,” then says that if you do compromise, “(y)ou can say that you wish you could have done better, that it’s not the best course, but you don’t whine,” without a hint of recognition that when someone Jay disagrees with says they wish they could have done better, or it’s not the best course, that he would always classify that as “whining” (and just did, in his own cognitively-dissonant way).

    What Jay does not to is address the point, why would a died-in-the-wool socialist like the right keeps telling us Obama is be willing to compromise by agreeing to continued tax cuts for the very wealthy on their top income, in order to secure continued tax cuts for the other 95% of Americans? He gave in on some tax cuts to get other tax cuts. Clearly a socialist! Because Jay knows his secret beliefs and that his push for tax cuts for 95% of the country is all a smokescreen!

    Jay, are you sure you don’t have some sort of deteriorating brain disease? You’re getting dumber and dumber as time goes on. See a doctor.

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  19. mantis says:

    If the current health care plan was so similar to the Republicans’ one in 93, then why didn’t the Democrats supported and voted for it back in 93?

    Because they had a better plan, to which the Republican plan was offered as an alternative. Now, almost 20 years later, Republicans think that basically the same plan their party (and many of the same members) supported back then is now an unconstitutional socialist scheme to kill all your grandmothers. The Democrats compromised to get the best thing they could passed, which happened to be very similar to the evil commie plan, er, Republican plan from the 90s.

    In other words, in 16 years or so Democrats came around to a compromise, while Republicans simply became even more full of shit, which many of us thought impossible.

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  20. Wayne says:

    The Democrats pass their Health care bill in a partisan vote. They did not compromise to get Republicans votes but to get other Democrats votes. The Democrats didn’t vote for the Republican plan in 93 and they didn’t vote for the Republican plan this time. They shut the doors and wrote the bill by themselves and voted on it without giving anyone a chance to read it or legit chances to amend it. Claiming it is a Republican bill and not a Democrat is beyond belief. Using reasoning like “the Republicans were for Health care reform and the bill did that therefore it accomplishes what the Republicans wanted” is asinine.

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  21. Wayne says:

    Another thing the bill was not even debated or voted on in 1993. So we have little idea how much it would have been change. It obviously didn’t have much support since it wasn’t even debated on.

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  22. mantis says:

    They did not compromise to get Republicans votes but to get other Democrats votes.

    They did both.

    The Democrats didn’t vote for the Republican plan in 93 and they didn’t vote for the Republican plan this time.

    The Republicans had no plan this time. The Democrats passed a plan very similar to the Republican plan of the 90s.

    They shut the doors and wrote the bill by themselves and voted on it without giving anyone a chance to read it or legit chances to amend it.

    Utter BS.

    Claiming it is a Republican bill and not a Democrat is beyond belief.

    By all means, outline the big differences between the bill that passed and the Republican plan from the early 90s.

    Using reasoning like “the Republicans were for Health care reform and the bill did that therefore it accomplishes what the Republicans wanted” is asinine.

    Nobody’s using that reasoning. We’re pointing out that the Republicans supported a very similar plan years ago, and now they claim it’s an evil socialist plot. Does that mean the Republican Party in the early 1990s, including some members of congress still seated today, some of whom explicitly supported that plan, was evil and socialist?

    So we have little idea how much it would have been change. It obviously didn’t have much support since it wasn’t even debated on.

    It was still the Republican proposal.

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  23. An Interested Party says:

    “What separates the men form the boys is that grown-ups do the right thing because it is the right thing to do and Boys do it because they are force to.”

    This from the same person who wrote the following…

    “To claim Reagan or Bush ‘pushed’ for higher taxes is a lie. Just because they sign a bill with tax increases don’t mean they wanted it.”

    I guess the president is just following in the kid’s sneakers of his illustrious predecessors…

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  24. george says:

    Ultimately I kind of prefer to judge people by what they do, rather than what they say – or worse, what I think their unstated motives are. And by that standard, Obama is somewhat to the right of Nixon.

    Moreover, he had majorities in both houses; if he’d really wanted to bring in leftish policies he’d have managed to twist enough arms to get a least a few major ones threw. Instead he’s more or less continued on with all the policies Bush had … was Bush really that left leaning?

    Its not unlike listeneing to someone who claims they’d like to exercise, but never finds the right circumstances. At which point do you begin to doubt that they’re really interested in exercsing?

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  25. Wayne says:

    “Congressional Democrats plan to take final negotiations on the massive health-care overhaul behind closed doors — far from the prying eyes of the public and most lawmakers”.

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/dems_shut_out_gop_on_health_CHxxv0fxPhKKinyeGWGHAL

    “With a full House vote just days away, the authors of the deal are still negotiating the details, the New York Times has reported. In a measure as complex as the energy bill — which consists of around 1,000 pages”
    “With a full House vote just days away, the authors of the deal are still negotiating the details, the New York Times has reported. In a measure as complex as the energy bill — which consists of around 1,000 pages”

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-5110850-503544.html

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  26. mantis says:

    “Congressional Democrats plan to take final negotiations on the massive health-care overhaul behind closed doors — far from the prying eyes of the public and most lawmakers”.

    That didn’t happen. The House ended up passing the Senate’s bill, and the negotiations were quite public.

    “With a full House vote just days away, the authors of the deal are still negotiating the details, the New York Times has reported. In a measure as complex as the energy bill — which consists of around 1,000 pages”

    That article is from June 2009. The bill was passed in March 2010. Did Republicans still not have enough chance to read it? Are they literate?

    I notice you’ve given up arguing that the bill passed is not similar to the Republican proposal of the early 1990s. Wise move.

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  27. Wayne says:

    AIP the first part was in a response to Herb generality statement. Obviously mine was a generality statement as well.

    Obama did IMO a right thing because he was force to. Reagan and Bush did IMO a wrong thing because they were force to. All three did it for the sake of compromise in order to accomplish something bigger. A person can reasonably argue if the bigger accomplishment was worth the sacrifice but the concept is understandable. Sometimes people have to do things they do not want to or think is right for the sake of a greater good. It is a fact of life.

    However to claim they pushed something when in fact they fought against it and only did it as a compromise still remains a lie. Obama didn’t want to extend all of Bush’s tax cuts and the fact he sign off on a plan that will do just that does not change that fact. The same goes for Reagan and Bush signing off on tax rates increases. If it was entirely up to them it wouldn’t have happen but they were force by the Democrats into making those compromises. Pretending anything different is a lie.

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  28. Wayne says:

    Mantis the Senate passed the bill in December with the Democrats still making adjustments to it that morning. The House later passed the Senate version because if they change it, many thought they did not have enough votes in the Senate to pass it. Remember Scott Brown getting elected. Remember Nancy Pelosi saying “But we have to pass the [health care ] bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

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  29. Wayne says:

    Another article written in January 2010

    “After months of writing a huge health care bill largely behind closed doors in the Senate”

    http://articles.cnn.com/2010-01-06/opinion/borger.democrats.health.bill.behind.closed.doors_1_final-vote-health-care-reform-white-house?_s=PM:OPINION

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  30. mantis says:

    Mantis the Senate passed the bill in December

    Only six months after they claimed they didn’t have time to read it! And the adjustment was adding the cornhusker kickback for Sen. Nelson, which was subsequently removed.

    In any case, this:

    They shut the doors and wrote the bill by themselves and voted on it without giving anyone a chance to read it or legit chances to amend it.

    Is a bunch of crap.

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  31. floyd says:

    Being a Marxist philosophically doesn’t guarantee the courage of ones convictions!

    [If only B.O. were a “Harpo Marxist”] honk-honk!

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  32. Herb says:

    “What separates the men form the boys is that grown-ups do the right thing because it is the right thing to do and Boys do it because they are force to. ”

    You ever have kids? If you have, you’ve probably had the experience of being forced to get up in the middle of the night to attend to a crying baby. You probably complained about it the next day as you yawned over the coffee maker.

    You ever served in combat? If you have, you might have found yourself driving a convoy down a road notorious for IEDs. You’d rather be surfing or going to the movies or anything else besides driving down this road, but that FOB isn’t going to supply itself so you make the perilous drive. (And you probably complain about it in a letter back home.)

    My statement stands. Mature, responsible individuals do the right thing even when they don’t want to, even when it’s hard, even when they’d rather be doing something else. If I were a Republican who believes that the tax cut extension was the “right thing,” then I’d have to give Obama credit for finally agreeing to it.

    Partisan warfare is only useful as long as it results in the desired ends, right? After you get what you want, you should be able to put down the pitchforks for a while.

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  33. anjin-san says:

    Hmmm. Doing the right thing. Is the GOP doing the right thing when they deny benefits to the WTC workers who are sick for political reasons? To the family members of those who died? Were Republican politicians doing the right thing when they assured those workers there was no danger?

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  34. Grewgills says:

    Wayne,
    I realize this is petty and just a pet peeve, but why do you hate the suffix -ed. It is excellent for verb tense agreement when you are using the past tense in the other parts of your sentence/paragraph.

    Mantis already covered the substantive points.

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