Obama wants to freeze the Republican hatred but instead he will propose to freeze domestic spending in his State of the Union address Wednesday evening. His gambit is that by publicly endorsing what the Republicans have said they want, they won't dare to say no again. But he would be wrong to undermine the depth of the Wile E. Coyotes on the other side of the aisle. They smell blood and they are not letting up. They've already moved the goal post.
If this move were a political ploy to prove to the nation how unruly and anti-everything the Republicans have been, it would be a smart one. But this is an unlikely scenario.
Obama has used his sharp
communicate skills to try to transcend the underlying hatred and bring the
public back to rational thought. But every little nick the Republicans make in
the thin-skinned Democrats gets Obama closer to death by a thousand cuts, and
Obama (and by extension our democracy) is bleeding.
What will he do if another Congress member decides to deliver another shout out while the President delivers the nation's most important annual public speech? Is he prepared to respond on the spot, or will he ignore it and just let Nancy Pelosi glare? Will the sergeants-at-arms remove a sitting member of Congress who displays uncivil behavior? Will holding up accusatory signs, as if the speech were a mere political rally, be tolerated? Will the Democrats let it go unchecked and allow the excuse that it was a purely a spontaneous emotional outburst? Who will carry the water for the timid Democrats this time?
Obama, at least in his public persona, was forgiving of the outburst by Republican Congressman Joe Wilson (SC), and the President treated it like a small faux pas rather than a warrior's rallying cry. That was a mistake. What if it does happen again?
Even before he won the election, Republicans accused Obama of being an appeaser. As it turns out, he's not the appeaser they thought they would get, given the slow and bumpy exit from Iraq and further sinking in Afghanistan. As it's turned out, however, the label isn't so far off mark; it's just wrongly applied.
In short, the state of the union is not good. We are more divided than ever, more contentious, and angrier. Those who worked hard to elect Obama are thoroughly disgusted at his lack of spine in confronting the hatred and lies spewed by his enemies, thinly disguised as an opposition party.
And yes, the Republicans, not just the tea baggers and those who used to be called the fringe, see themselves as the President's enemies. Republicans are more than a party of No these days. They have, by their own admission, stated that their objective is to bring down this presidency. They are not merely opposed to specific policies; they are opposed to anything Obama wants. If they gum up the business of governing in the process of countering Obama's efforts to do his job, even better: that will show the public that Obama is incapable of governing.
Unfortunately, this cunning, disingenuous strategy is working, and Obama shares the blame. The President's predilection for good will and humility in the face of mean-spirited opposition, combined with a split Democratic Party that lacks the ability to take the offense, has been a sorry sight. It has put the Democrats right where the Republicans want them, allowing the Republicans and their cohorts to paint the Democrats as inept appeasers who can't run the government. Obama's model of decorum is what passes for party discipline. You can't have civility when people refuse to live by the rules and be civil, and lack of civility, at its core, is how a society eventually gets to Civil War.
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