Obama’s Sister Souljah Moment?
President Obama's press conference yesterday, bitterly railing against Democrats in the Congress for being "purist" and "sanctimonious," is brilliant triangulation.
During his successful 1992 run for the presidency, Bill Clinton famously denounced the rapper Sister Souljah at a Rainbow Coalition address. This drew angry criticism from his host, Jesse Jackson, and charges of betrayal by others in his base. But the incident bolstered his “family values” credentials with centrist voters and, ultimately, the blacks had nowhere else to go.
While less dramatic, I’m wondering if President Obama’s press conference yesterday, bitterly railing against Democrats in the Congress for being “purist” and “sanctimonious” while he’s working hard to “get health care for all Americans” and other “victories for the American people,” isn’t his equivalent.
Ezra Klein thinks “the White House cut its deal and lost its base.” And it’s true that Nancy Pelosi, Mary Landrieu, and other Democrats are hopping mad, thinking Obama gave away the store. But, frankly, who cares what they think? Certainly not Obama, who wants to get credit for compromise and really didn’t want to be defending raising taxes during a recession in the next campaign.
As with Clinton and the Rainbow Coalition, where exactly is the base going to go? Nowhere. Oh, there are murmurs of a primary challenge. But they’re coming from the Hard Left. And, unless they want to hand the White House over the the Republicans, they’ll fall in line.
Meanwhile, the Hard Right is mad. Jim DeMint tells Hugh Hewitt he’s going to oppose the deal. Michelle Bachman hates it, too. Because the deal would explode the deficit.
But, again, making enemies of the extremists on both sides is a win. It makes it easy for Obama to dodge the “socialist” and “most liberal ever” labels. And it both belies the Republicans’ newfound zeal for fiscal responsibility and makes it harder to keep the Tea Party zealots on the reservation.
Oh, and as GI notes, the short term impact of the deal is likely very good for the economy and thus very, very good for Obama.
What will ultimately matter in 2012 is how the economy performs, not whose policies are responsible for that performance. If the economy is booming a year from now, Mr Obama may be seen to have lost the battle but won the war. In spite of their grumbling, the rest of the Democratic caucus may also benefit. As a correspondent notes, “This is a pro-incumbent kind of package. And Democrats have a lot more incumbents running in 2012 than Republicans do.”
Outside the beltway, it doesn’t matter who wins or loses but whether it’s good for the economy. In the short run the answer is, unambiguously, yes. In the long run, there’s not much comfort to be taken from the fact that Democrats and Republicans have once again proven they can come together to run up the deficit. Awfully nice of White House officials to credit both the Bowles-Simpson and Domenici-Rivlin commissions for the payroll tax cut idea; pity all their ideas for reducing the deficit remain untouched, like the vegetables on a kid’s dinner plate.
Well, the incentives all push in the other direction.