Wednesday, December 8, 2010



I’m not in the habit of listening to political talk shows early in the day so, even though I haven’t heard this point made, I strongly suspect that I am not the first to make it. It bears making, though, and I can probably make it more effectively than most of the professional punditry.

President Obama has reached a compromise with congressional Republicans on extension of the “Bush era” tax cuts. The compromise was about as everybody, and certainly yours truly, expected. See my 12/4/10 piece, WHAT’S MINE IS MINE, WHAT’S YOURS IS NEGOTIABLE. Essentially, the entire package gets extended two years, and we get an added bonus of a payroll tax cut.

The Democrats in Congress, and especially in the House, are sullen and down in the mouth about this latest development. They accuse the President of betrayal. He counters by telling them to grow up and realize that they can’t get everything they want and that he is not about to sacrifice the after tax incomes of the American people, and the economic recovery, such as it is, in the pursuit of pyrrhic public policy purity. One would think that the election results would make the Democrats realize that the populace isn’t buying their nanny state nonsense, but apparently they need a more sober, and responsible, member of their party to bring them back from their hypnotic allegiance to supergovernment, but I digress.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are quite happy with this tax “compromise.” Why shouldn’t they be? They got just about everything they wanted and then some.

But perhaps the Republicans can’t see beyond the next trade and/or are too obtuse to see what just happened. It appears that President Obama has at least begun to take a page from that most successful of our recent presidents (Okay, okay, maybe Ronald Reagan was more effective, but he doesn’t qualify as “recent” to many of my readers. Yes, we are getting old, and quickly. But I digress.), his fellow Democrat, Bill Clinton. Clinton, the brightest president of my lifetime (with the possible exception of Richard Nixon, who was, as my mother-in-law likes to say, “so smart but not all that smart.”), realized after 1994 that if he didn’t ditch the ideological nonsense his party chieftains ladled out, figuratively sober up, and start looking out for not only the welfare of the country but also for Old Number 1, he was heading back to Arkansas pronto, and neither he nor Hillary could be delighted at that prospect. So he got smart and started a process that came to be called “triangulation.” He would alternately work with Congressional Democrats and Republicans (seemingly more often with the Republicans), playing them off against each other and keeping everybody but himself off balance. He used both the power of the White House, and the confusion he sowed in rival power centers in Washington, to achieve some very worthwhile, both for himself and for the country, goals, to win a second term, and to become a very successful president. If Barack Obama, a very clever fellow (but make no mistake (an admonition that Mr. Obama has taken from the aforementioned Richard Nixon): Obama is no match for Bill Clinton when it comes to cleverness, intellect, or street smarts.), can even come close to Bill Clinton’s degree of success in applying such a triangulation strategy to the current, and upcoming, alignment of power in Washington, Mr. Obama could still be a very successful, and two-term, president. And then another Clinton waits in the wings. Unless this latest compromise was a fluke, it could be a long time before the Republicans see the inside of the White House again.

A fitting digression on Bill Clinton:

Even those of us who could not stand Bill Clinton and relentlessly opposed him at every turn just for the joy of the fight, have to admit, if we are honest, that we miss the big guy, and not just for the thrill of intellectual (?) combat. For all his personal foibles, he was a great, or at least near great president, certainly, at the expense of erecting an ankle high bar, by comparison to his successors. While this is, of course, another of my digressions, I insist on continuing it by referring you to something I said, albeit in an entirely different context, in yesterday’s piece “LOOK…UP IN THE SKY…IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE…IT’S SUPER(BEN)”, to wit…

“With such age, I had thought, comes a dramatic reduction in the number of things in which one is 100% confident. I am down to about two.”

The certainty that I had when I was younger that Bill Clinton was a lousy president is one of those things that has evaporated with age. One would be wise to remember this before getting wildly antipathetic toward any president unless, of course, that president is George W. Bush. Then wild antipathy is completely justified and will be as long as history books continue to be written.

I have a feeling that one of my avid readers, former on-the-air colleagues, and dear friends is going to do a little bit of gloating on this digression, but I digress.

One more thing…

Does anybody recognize the OGCR (“Old Geezer Cultural Reference,” as my students call such musings I do in class.) contained in the title of this post?

No comments: