The first half of President Obama’s term has served to define the relationship between partisanship and patriotism as performed on Capitol Hill in our legislative version of the Roman circus. Combat is the order of the day, and the teams of gladiators line up to salute their patrons and the emperor. Republicans have declared that their goal is to deny the president re-election two years hence by denying him any success on his agenda of reform and recovery. Blood sport politics is high entertainment for the plebeian spectators, and the past 20 months have seen only the preliminary bouts. Comes the spring, the main event is on and it promises to be a melee of grand proportions.
The whining liberal left, who are always ready to cheer on someone else in a fight, have been sniveling and whining of late over the compromises mongered by the Obama White House and Republican leaders. Extending the Bush tax cuts of 2003, settling for a health care plan that gives the insurance gangsters first bite of the health care pie and selling out to the drug industry to allow them to charge Americans more for their product than overseas customers are frequent themes for the Obama bashing by the disappointed progressives. They demand that the president stand tall on the millionaire tax issue despite the reality that such a battle in the last days of the 111th Congress would block passage of any other legislation before the new Congress takes office in January. And when that new Congress, with a Republican majority in the House, takes over it will have passed the tax cuts as permanent after huge fights in the Senate and veto threats from Obama.
Instead, the president made a deal on taxes and got agreement on passage of dozens of lesser bills that the GOP had stalled all year with filibuster threats: extended unemployment benefits, student loan reform, Wall Street reforms and regulation, health care for 9/11 responders, repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gay military service ad infinitum, or close to it.
Now that the time challenge is removed, most of the battles over those same policies will be fought in committee and on the floor of both houses, and this time the democrats will be fighting hard to preserve their gains of the lame-duck engagement. And make no mistake, the Republicans are going to come out scratching and biting, knowing that they got taken down in the end game of this congress. As Sen. Graham of South Carolina explained it: “Harry Reid ate our lunch.”
Obama, whose early training included dealing with bare-knuckle Chicago politics, cannot continue to compromise on his major issues. He must create a presidential power strategy and take it to the whatever champions the GOP muster.
Boxing is the metaphor for the next two years, and every round counts.
“Travus T. Hipp” is a 40-year veteran radio commentator with six stations in California carrying his daily version of the news and opinions. “The Poor Hippy’s Paul Harvey,” Travus is a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views.