So this is fun.
I was listening to NPR the other morning, and they were saying that the Republicans are livid that President Obama stuck to his guns on his "fiscal cliff" offer regarding phasing out the tax cuts for the rich.
You see, NPR explained, the Republicans figured the President would make an offer, then start negotiating with himself, undercutting his own position, while the Republicans just sat back and watched.
But a funny thing happened this time. He didn't. The President is sticking to his guns and demanding the GOP let the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire. And Democrats are pleasantly surprised to be able to say, "now that's the guy I voted for."
It shouldn't be a surprise in principle that the President is standing up to the GOP. The President won the election, and he was quite clear throughout that if he was re-elected, he'd get rid of the Bush tax cuts for the rich.
What's probably motivating the White House more are the polls. Not only have recent polls shown that a large majority of Americans, 67%, want tax increases included as part of the budget deal, but even Republicans support the notion 52-44, and even conservative Republicans are on board, 51-45. That means, congressional Republicans don't even represent conservatives in their party, let alone the rest of their party or the rest of the nation.
And the President knows it, and he's playing it. The poll also showed that the public at large, and independents in particular, would blame the GOP more than the President if the talks fail.
Now, the President has had polls on his side before, and not quite seemed to have taken full advantage of them. Back in 2010, the polls were showing that the public wanted Washington to cut the deficit, keep entitlements and tax the rich.
The public wants Congress to keep its hands off entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, a Bloomberg National Poll shows. They oppose cuts in most other major domestic programs and defense. They want to maintain subsidies for farmers and tax breaks like the mortgage-interest deduction. And they're against an increase in the gasoline tax.
Peter Baker in the NYT has a delicious "news analysis" of the current standoff entitled, "Pushing G.O.P. to Negotiate, Obama Brings End to Giving In."
Obama brings end to giving in. Imagine that.
Mr. Obama, scarred by failed negotiations in his first term and emboldened by a clear if close election to a second, has emerged as a different kind of negotiator in the past week or two, sticking to the liberal line and frustrating Republicans on the other side of the bargaining table.
Disciplined and unyielding, he argues for raising taxes on the wealthy while offering nothing new to rein in spending and overhaul entitlement programs beyond what was on the table last year. Until Republicans offer their own new plan, Mr. Obama will not alter his. In effect, he is trying to leverage what he claims as an election mandate to force Republicans to take ownership of the difficult choices ahead.
His approach is born of painful experience. In his first four years in office, Mr. Obama has repeatedly offered what he considered compromises on stimulus spending, health care and deficit reduction to Republicans, who either rejected them as inadequate or pocketed them and insisted on more. Republicans argued that Mr. Obama never made serious efforts at compromise and instead lectured them about what they ought to want rather than listening to what they did want.
You know what? Bite me. The Republicans long ago taught themselves that lying is the best medicine. The only way to win over the public, the GOP figured, was to lie to them. That's why they created Fox News. And it's why they regularly lie about science (be it climate change or evolution), and pretty much every position they hold. Tax cuts won't balloon the deficit. Iraq really has WMD (and the war will be a snap). Gay marriage will force straight men to divorce their wives. And the President has always refused to compromise with Republicans.
When has the President ever refused to compromise with Republicans? If anything, Democrats have been annoyed with the President's seemingly endless efforts to compromise with both Republicans and himself. The stimulus was a compromise (and then the Republicans voted against it anyway). Health care reform was as compromise (and then the Republicans pretended it was a federal takeover of health care when it wasn't). Backing off of climate change was a compromise. Proposing off-shore drilling was a compromise. When hasn't this President compromised?
Though, the President's compromises did become less compromising in the last two years of his first term, as he grew to fully appreciate how duplicitous the Republicans really were. So now, he's actually standing up to them, full bore, and they don't like it one bit.
This is what the President refused to do at the beginning of his first term – use his electoral mandate, use the polling in his favor, and fight from a position of strength for what he thinks is right.
Oh, and I read that the President is also demanding that Republicans let Medicare negotiate drug prices with Big Pharma, so that we can stop paying the exorbitant 300% to 500% mark-up that Big Pharma charges Americans to help pay for subsidized drug prices in Europe. If the President is serious about this, this is a battle, even in the face of Big Pharma big money, that he can win (good luck explaining to the American people why they, and their government, should continue to pay 5x the price for Advair in order to subsidize cheap prices in France).
Now, will he hold firm? I dunno. And to some degree, that's our job to help hold him firm. But having the President recognize his own strengths in this negotiation is a darn good beginning to a second term, and it's just the change I've been needing.