Thursday, December 09, 2010

“Bipartisan Compromise” Gets Attacked From Both Sides: Where Are The Moderates?

President Obama has agreed to extend all of the current tax rates for two years, in a “grand compromise” with the GOP. The deal includes extending unemployment benefits another thirteen months, which the Dems have been pushing for. There are several more provisions that are popular with one side or the other, but that’s not the aspect of this deal that I want to focus on. The reaction to it, by partisan pols and media people, is worth examining.

Rush Limbaugh thinks the GOP could’ve gotten more, that they have much more leverage than they realize, but won’t use it because of past experiences (link). He also notes that “Republicans do not run the House; they don’t run the Senate; they don’t run the White House, so in that limited context it’s a good deal.” (link) As the “biggest dog on the (conservative) block,” he is “barking” against “the deal,” which is to be expected. Still, as a regular Rush listener, I didn’t hear real outrage from him.

Meanwhile, the left is apoplectic, and it may be more than just “barking.” Katerina vanden Heuvel’s column (link) sums it up: “Obama: On the way to a failed presidency?” She borders on becoming a “birther,” according to James Taranto of the WSJ (link), with this line: “This daunting project is not a matter of ambition or appetite–or even unconscious Kenyan socialism.” I think Taranto’s just poking fun, but Obama’s accomplishments have emboldened the left to push for more than he can deliver. There is open rumbling about a 2012 primary challenge from the left, but seriously, anyone further left than Obama would be unelectable.

It’s expected for the furthest right and left people to criticize any compromise, but what does one make of the President’s statement, calling the GOP “hostage takers?” When James Rosen of FOX News asserted, on the O’Reilly Factor, that Obama’s formulation of that statement might embolden terrorists, he was laughed off the air by Bill O. Still, the choice of words by our President was far from “bipartisan,” to say the least.

Granted, Obama called his own left-wing critics “sanctimonious,” but when he himself is using such extreme rhetoric, he can’t be surprised when CNN’s liberal commentator James Carville says he “capitulated.” In the same segment, conservative Tony Blankley seemed to defend Obama, while acknowledging that neither side got everything they wanted. Perhaps the similar response from several prominent conservatives adds to the perception that the President “got rolled,” or that this is a bad deal for the Dems.

One Dem who supports the deal is Sen. Joe Leiberman, though he’s actually an Independent that caucuses with them, after his own split with some on the far-left of his lifelong party. Leading the Dem opposition are Sen. Mary Landrieu in the Senate, and Rep. Bernie Sanders in the House. I know Sanders calls himself a Socialist, but he’s also an Independent that caucuses with the Dems. On the GOP side, Sen. Jim DeMint is leading the opposition, and in the House, Rep. Michelle Bachman is the “point person.” Both are favored by the “Tea Party” movement, which is calling for fiscal discipline.

All of these opponents seem to be acting out of principle, whether from the right or left. The difference is that the left is whining harder, and exposing themselves as “out of touch” with the reality of public opinion. A perfect example is the lib who wrote this on the Huffington Post:

“Yet, what you told us last night is that you couldn’t imagine the average American family getting by on $3000 a year less than it currently has.

Mr. President, if you had asked the American people (instead of deciding this question for us), I think you would have found almost unanimous agreement that it was worth spending $3000 over the 12 months of 2011 – $250 per month – to break the backs of those who were trying to blackmail you… those who were holding our future – as well as yours – hostage.”

(Hat tip to Mr. Taranto for the link) What all of this points to is a problem that’s been developing for years: Where are the moderate Democrats? Judging the reactions from both sides, the GOP is looking like the centrist, moderate party. I think the President is seeing this, which is why he took the deal. He is obviously a far-leftist, but now that he’s “hit the wall” of public opinion, he’s probably more interested in holding on to the parts of his “progressive” agenda already passed, than pushing his whole party back into the minority in 2012.