Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Classic Pol

Andrew Sullivan, as loyal an Obamamaniac as you'll find, is finally saying what I've been saying for almost two years now:
Instead, Obama's transformation into a "what debt crisis?" liberal means that the GOP for the first time can legitimately call Obama out on his fiscal recklessness. Like Megan, I can see the point of spending in a recession. But when you have a new opportunity to set a new fiscal compass in a slowly recovering economy, outflank the GOP on the long-term debt, and help prevent a looming fiscal collapse, and you give the lame-ass SOTU Obama gave and unveil the risibly unserious budget we got yesterday, you reveal yourself as, well, not exactly change and certainly not hope.

I am not turning on the president given the alternatives, but I am not going to use the alternatives as excuses for the president to shirk his core responsibility to the next generation. I didn't send eight years excoriating George "Deficits Don't Matter" Bush to provide excuses for Barack "Default Doesn't Matter" Obama. Like other fiscal conservatives, I'm just deeply disappointed by Obama's reprise of politics as usual - even as the fiscal crisis has worsened beyond measure in the last three years. My point is that actually being honest about the budget and what it will take to resolve its long-term crisis is not political suicide, as Chait says. It's statesmanship. It's what a president is for.

One reason many of us supported this president was because he pledged not to return to the cynical politics of the Washington game in which partisan maneuvring always, always outweighs the national interest. But what he is telling us now is that he is indeed a classic pol, aiming for re-election, even if the US risks becoming a fiscal banana republic in the next decade.

Leadership is not a bullshit SOTU that dredges up that ancient cliche about a "Sputnik moment" (really, Favreau? That's all you got?), as if Obama were Harold Wilson extolling the "white heat" of the technological revolution as some sort of cure-all. It is not new slogans like "cut and invest", which involve trivial amounts of money in the grand scheme of the things and may do actual harm to good government programs, instead of tackling where the real money is. It isn't trimming a pathetically small amount from defense, while still adhering to Cold War troop deployments across the entire globe.

It is preventing the US from moving inexorably to default as we go year after a year with a trillion dollar deficit even before the real turds start hitting the fiscal fan. Readers tell me Obama is once again playing the long game, tactically outsmarting Republicans, while freezing domestic discretionary spending, and waiting for his second term to deliver the real cuts and tax reform the US desperately needs. Usually, there is some evidence for this. But not now.
I think Sullivan is losing 'the faith'. I lost it a long time ago.  I saw it as soon as he began appointing his staff and cabinet...classic pols, everyone of them, starting with Rahm Emmanuel.  Not a significant reformer/transformer in the bunch.  It was a sure tipoff of his true political intentions, and it was deeply disappointment.  I felt betrayed and still do by the, what Roger Hodge has called (and what Sullivan used in one of his posts) mendacity of it all. 
Still, he's better than the present alternatives.

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