Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Obama's Rubicon?

May this be the ultimate defining moment of The Obama Administration? Will it really all come down to this?

President Obama will call for shrinking the nation's long-term deficits by raising taxes on wealthier Americans and requiring them to pay more into Social Security, drawing a barbed contrast with a Republican plan to save money by deeply slashing Medicare, Medicaid and other domestic spending.

Obama will offer some spending cuts, including trims to the Pentagon's budget, but his speech Wednesday is likely to provide Americans with a vivid choice between higher taxes or fewer benefits, issues that will color the national debate straight through the 2012 election.

So what will President Obama say? The LA Times may be offering a hint...

Democrats hope to repeat the experience of 2005, in which President George W. Bush's proposal to privatize parts of Social Security proved to be a staggering miscalculation that cost his party heavily in the next year's election. They think voters will not accept a Republican proposal put forward by Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) that would replace guaranteed Medicare benefits with a limited voucher. [...]

"We strongly disagree with the lack of balance in Congressman Ryan's approach," [White House Press Secretary Jay] Carney said. "It simply is not appropriate and it would not be supported by the American people to have a fiscal plan that relies on dramatic restructuring, reform of the kind of programs that provide security and health security to seniors and to poor people and to disabled people, and at the same time gives enormous tax relief, tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans."

Though The Washington Post suggests something different, and The PCCC is already organizing AGAINST Obama and flirting with the possibility of a primary challenge next year. So is Obama preparing to do the unthinkable in slashing and burning The New Deal and Great Society? Is this "Nixon Goes to China" for Obama?

Or is this something else? Ezra Klein tweeted that The White House directly told him so, and Greg Sargent is suddenly... GASP!... Feeling more hopeful about tomorrow evening's Presidential Speech.

At the White House press briefing today, spokesman Jay Carney hinted that all the reporting out there today is wrong, and insisted Obama’s vision would not be based solely on any particular plan.

“He has said very clearly that he supports the efforts of the so-called Gang of Six and others who are addressing these challenges in a very serious way,”Carney said. “That’s a healthy, good thing, and it’s reflective of the environment that was created by the president’s fiscal commission after it reported last year...He will provide his vision tomorrow.”

I could be wrong, but that sounds to me like the White House actively doesn’t want Obama’s eventual vision to be seen as anything but his own, despite commentary to the contrary. Obama intended the fiscal commission to start a conversation, not set his final blueprint for him. “It will be his,” Carney said. [...]

As The Post reports today, “letting others take the lead on complex problems has become a hallmark of the Obama presidency.” But it’s also a hallmark of the Obama presidency for him to step in just when such chatter is at its peak and articulate a vision that, by his lights, represents the best of what others contributed to the debate while he waited in the wings. So we'll see.

So what can we expect tomorrow? Maybe we need to stop reading into Obama what we want to see?

Honestly, I think it was the biggest mistake far too many voters made in 2008. They looked at the nebulous promise of "hope" and "change", and read into it whatever they wanted: that Obama would be a great "Progressive Messiah" ushering in a golden age of public works programs, single-payer health care, and marriage equality; or that Obama would be some "Crazy Communist" out to socialize everything in sight; or that Obama would be playing hoops with Lamar Odom and doing photo shoots with Scarlett Johansen all day. Seriously, Barack Obama isn't the kind of politician that likes to be boxed in by ideological labels or branded as some part of some specific DC clique.

Rather, what Obama has been trying to do this whole time he's been in office so far is to make his own unique mark on the major legislative hurdles of our time. And he wants to do so on his terms. That's why I'm willing to hear him out tomorrow.

After all, this may be the pivotal moment of truth for Obama. Does he want to be known as the President conveying the wrong message at the wrong time? Does he want to be known as someone who threw the country back into total economic misery by cutting the poor, disabled, and elderly to death? Or does he want to be known as someone who brought about lasting change that put America firmly into economic recovery and beyond the doldrums of "Bush's Great Recession"?

This may really be President Obama's Rubicon Moment. And believe it or not, I'm thinking he will put extra thought into what he does and understand we can't forget what we value the most.

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