Something very, very weird is going on in Washington *UPDATED*

Are the wheels coming off the bus, or are we witnessing the most brilliant, and dangerous, political theater in our life times?

Here’s what it looked like a few days ago:  the President caved on maintaining the current tax rate, leaving Republicans triumphant.  In exchange, it seemed as if the Republicans were extending unemployment benefits, which is fiscally offensive (and socially dangerous), but survivable.  The President foll0wed that cave-in by holding a bizarre press conference, in which he likened Republicans to terrorists and hostage takers, and scolded his own base for living in a bubble.  Those of us who expected the usual peaceful platitudes of compromise were, to say the least, surprised.

The strangeness escalated when Democrats refused to go along with the President’s compromise on the tax plan.  There was talk from the Left of a primary challenge.  Primary challenges never bode well for the incumbent.

After this talk, Reid suddenly seemed to cave, and started drafting a bill that, rather than narrowly focusing on taxes and unemployment, threw bones to every liberal constituency out there, plus a dollop for the on-line gamblers (not that I have a problem with that last one, as you’ll see from my sidebar).

Next, Lawrence O’Donnell, of all people, pointed out that the whole focus on the “rich” when it came to letting the Bush tax cuts expire was a bunch of malarky.  The marginal rates for the top income earners will go up by less than 5% come January, which is a fairly small percentage of their overall taxes.  By contrast, unless the Dems act soon, the people in the lowest bracket, the 10% bracket, will see their taxes raised to 15%, which is a 50% increase in their overall tax bill.  Yikes!  It’s class warfare, but on an entirely different class than we thought.  Talk about misdirection.

Charles Krauthammer, who had smelled a rat early on, then announced in a widely quoted post that Obama had royally flim-flammed everyone, and mortally wounded the Republicans by wringing from the latter  a concession on the biggest stimulus ever:

Barack Obama won the great tax-cut showdown of 2010 — and House Democrats don’t have a clue that he did. In the deal struck this week, the president negotiated the biggest stimulus in American history, larger than his $814 billion 2009 stimulus package. It will pump a trillion borrowed Chinese dollars into the U.S. economy over the next two years — which just happen to be the two years of the run-up to the next presidential election. This is a defeat?

[snip]

While getting Republicans to boost his own reelection chances, he gets them to make a mockery of their newfound, second-chance, post-Bush, tea-party, this-time-we’re-serious persona of debt-averse fiscal responsibility.

And he gets all this in return for what? For a mere two-year postponement of a mere 4.6-point increase in marginal tax rates for upper incomes. And an estate-tax rate of 35 percent — it jumps insanely from zero to 55 percent on Jan. 1 — that is somewhat lower than what the Democrats wanted.

No, cries the Left: Obama violated a sacred principle. A 39.6 percent tax rate versus 35 percent is a principle? “This is the public-option debate all over again,” said Obama at his Tuesday news conference. He is right. The Left never understood that to nationalize health care there is no need for a public option because Obamacare turns the private insurers into public utilities. The Left is similarly clueless on the tax-cut deal: In exchange for temporarily forgoing a small rise in upper-income rates, Obama pulled out of a hat a massive new stimulus — what the Left has been begging for since the failure of Stimulus I, but was heretofore politically unattainable.

My friend and fellow blogger, Don Quixote (who, back in 2004, accurately predicted to me that Obama would be president one day), agrees with Krauthammer, although not for quite the same reason.  He says that Obama, by pitching a fit at the press conference, instead of offering the usual compromise platitudes, managed to plant himself in the middle between Republicans soaking the poor and Democrats soaking the rich.  Suddenly, he became the champion of the middle class.  He was reluctantly going along with maintaining the status quo, even though, to his chagrin, it would throw a bone to the evil rich.  To DQ, that was perfect class warfare theater, with Obama abandoning the poor to champion the middle class (at least for now).

It doesn’t end there, though, with Republicans suddenly wondering whether they’re as dumb as Krauthammer and Don Quixote make them look.  As I write this, Bernie Sanders, who was a recent liberal Facebook sensation with a speech castigating any attempt to reinstate the Bush tax rates, is actively filibustering any attempt to reinstate those rates.  Nor is Bernie doing one of those modern, pro forma, painless filibusters.  Instead, he’s doing it the old-fashioned, Jimmy Stewart way.  As the Anchoress says, this is a big deal:

I may not agree with him, but I applaud the man getting up and actually going through with a filibuster. After watching numerous drama-free, procedural “declared filibusters” through the latter part of Bush’s presidency–actions that really meant, “we’re just obstructing and going home”–Sanders is putting his money where his mouth is (or, rather, putting his mouth where the money is) and taking a stand.

I say good on him!

Those who are snarking about it, or bemusedly looking on, should beware: This is an extremely powerful optic. People who have no idea what Sanders is talking about will start cheering him for the sheer novelty of a filibuster. Those who have romantic memories of Jimmy Stewart reading the Constitution and Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians on the Senate floor will confer that same romance upon Sanders’ efforts. The press, always ripe for “something new” and on board with Sanders’ politics, will talk up his courage to make such a “heroic” stand.

I’ll add that, if Krauthammer was right, and the Republicans were scammed, go Bernie!  He’s the only thing right now standing between us and Obama’s successful machinations.

And finally, to add to the surreal quality of it all, Obama seems to have turned the presidency back over to Bill Clinton, at least temporarily.  Drew, blogging at Ace, thinks that this is a sign that Obama is not up to the job, but I’m beginning to wonder.  There’s much more going on here than meets the eye, and it’s worth remembering, as both Krauthammer and Don Quixote did, that Obama made his way up through the street theater of Leftism.

We may be counting our chickens far in advance of their hatching if we blithely assume that Obama is giving up.  He’s a dirty fighter, but he’s definitely a fighter.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

UPDATE:  Here’s the video.  It’s peculiar, to say the least, to see Obama play the henpecked husband, while Clinton cheerfully, and enthusiastically, waves him off to face his harridan of a wife:

UPDATE II:  The Christian Science Monitor agrees with DQ.

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Comments

  1. says

    Yikes!  It’s class warfare, but on an entirely different class than we thought.  Talk about misdirection.
     
    Who here was really surprised by this?
     
    Did anyone think Congress was going to take money from the Soroses, the John Kerries, the Teresa Heinzes, the Clintons, and the Obamas and give it to the government to spend?
     
    Or did people here think, as I did, that they were just using the “rich” trick to force their power over those who had less wealth and influence then the political DC class?
     
     

  2. jj says

    Well, okay.  I can get behind Bernie standing up and demonstrating what the concept “filibuster” means – but the man’s a blazing a******, no matter how you slice him.  Very tough to admire, and I don’t.

  3. Oldflyer says

    I know Krauthammer is brilliant, etc.  But, I have been listening to him drone on about this new deficit humongous stimulus for about 4 days now on FNC Special Report.  It simply makes no sense, and he makes no effort at explaining; just keeps repeating it.  Now, he  has gone in print.  Tonight Steve Hayes tried to question Krauthammer, but Wallace (moderating) cut him off because he wanted to discuss Bizzaro 42 and Birzzaro 44.  That is where we are at on discussing serious matters these days..
    If Krauthammer would explain how keeping tax rates constant increases the deficit I would appreciate it. I suppose that he is speculating that spending will be rise based on the “theoretical” revenue stream of the increased tax rates that did not happen. He must also assume that holding tax rates constant will in fact result in less revenue than would be realized by raising them during a sick economy.  But the revenue assumption is not a conservative one.  And, we all know that spending is not based in reality anyway.
    It was kind of fun to watch the Dims thrash around for awhile.  But, then I thought about  the predators out in the world who are evaluating our leadership; and thinking about whether there is any risk at all in sticking it to us in a variety of ways. I am sure that watching the same comedy show that we are, they conclude that there is no risk at all.   Then, this all becomes less fun.

  4. says

    Even putting aside Krauthammer’s math — and my math is abysmal, so I’m in no position to comment — the continued unpredictability, the huge unemployment payouts, and the lard that’s getting attached to the bill — all spell trouble.

    I would like to believe that Obama’s effectiveness is over, but I simply don’t trust that he can be that stupid and ineffectual.

  5. SADIE says

    No so much weird as business as usual…
     
    A tax-grant program for wind and solar-energy companies will be extended for one year after the industry warned of job losses without the aid, under a tax agreement reached by U.S. senators today, according to a Republican congressional aide.
    The tax package also benefits producers of ethanol by extending for one year a 45 cents per-gallon break to blend the corn-based fuel with gasoline, according to the aide, who declined to be identified because the details haven’t been made public.



    What other details have been omitted or are we, once again, you’ll know what’s in the bill after it passes.
     
     
    Optically speaking, the Clinton Show and his side-kick was one for the books. Clinton could not stop talking and Obama without a prepared speech and teleprompter couldn’t wait to stage right exit.

  6. Oldflyer says

    But Book, Krauthammer was railing against the agreement between Obama and McConnell before there was even talk of a bill.  McConnell stated when the “agreement” was announced that any larding in the bill would negate the agreement. But, Krauthammer started sounding off at the same time the Dims were whining about the agreement.  That is why I am confused.  Predictably, Reid and his merry band of crooks have started inflating the agreement, as they put together the bill; which they will naturally try to pass before anyone has a chance to read it.  So, we will have to wait and see if McConnell and the GOP hold the line on the original agreement as the lard is ladled into the pot.

  7. says

    It will indeed be interesting to see what finally gets passed.  It’s a Pelosi moment:  “We have to pass the bill so that you can know how you’re getting shafted.”  Isn’t that what she said or words to that effect?  As it is, I think they’re also throwing in social security manipulations, etc., all of which will drive up the price tag.  I guess we’ll end up with a neutral situation:  taxes will remain the same, but government expenditures will rise.  Of course, had the Dems run amok, taxes and expenditures both would have risen.

  8. SADIE says

    I think they’re also throwing in social security manipulations
     
    Mission accomplished. If you elected to withdraw social security at 62 you also were paid less.  You could however, by 70 regain full benefits, if you repaid the differential. There were no penalties to the process. I hope this sounds clear enough. In other words, if you decided at 65, you wanted full benefits and for the 3 preceding years and your monthly social security check was ‘lessened’ by $300 – you repaid $10,800 and then could receive the full amount.
     
    I’ll take a guess right now and predict another Fontzi scheme. This occurs when the fine print is itsy bitzy teeny small and the shenanigans shade the truth.

  9. snopercod says

    Oldflyer: I share your thoughts on Krauthammer. When I read his editorial I thought he had simply gone insane. On thinking it over for a couple days, though, I think he may have been referring to the additional tax cuts that Obama tossed in a couple years ago as part of the ‘stimulus': The $800-per-family “Making Work Pay” tax credit, for example.
    On Fox News yesterday they played the video of Bill Clinton saying Krauthammer was ‘brilliant’. Krauthammer’s response: “My career is over.” Too funny.

  10. quoderat1097 says

    Much as I respect Krauthammer, I don’t buy his narrative. In politics, as in most sports, it’s not the numbers that matter, it’s emotion and perceptiom. We can go back and forth about the specifics of the compromise, but it feels like the Republicans won and Obama went back on a campaign promise. It feels and seems like Obama is falling apart at the seams. It feels like a win.
    I concede, this may be a grand and ballsy master plan, but with the bluntness and churlishness coming from the Left in past years, I doubt the operators the Dems have could conceive it. It’s like the Dems’ perception of George W. Bush; he could not be a bumbling idiot and a criminal mastermind at the same time. Neither can our illustrious president and his henchmen. Really, does anyone see that kind of subtlety from Rahm or Axelrod?
    Plus, when the plan is this intricate, with this many moving parts, you can’t have the linchpin be the favorable opinion of 50.1% of the American electorate, TWO YEARS FROM NOW. Who knows what will happen? All things remaining equal though, the perception is Obama caved, like he did on the PATRIOT Act, like he did on Afghanistan. Do we believe, in the aftermath of the November elections, that people are willing to buy a narrative composed by Democrats that says anything other than that?
     

    • says

      That’s a good point. There’s a Rube Goldberg-esque quality to Krauthammer’s scenario, although I do think that the various attendant machinations (social security, etc.) bring the numbers closer to his view of things than people will admit. And as my friend DQ said, Obama, by screaming at both sides of the political spectrum, may be aiming for the Independents. Americans like a maverick, and Obama may be trying to position himself as one.

  11. says

    Suek, the Left always talks about national security, like they did with Plame Gate. In reality, of course, they don’t want national security. Only the victims of the Leftist con believe they want national security.
     
    What they want is an excuse to bolster their own power. Whether this secures the nation or not, doesn’t matter in the least to them.

  12. Mike Devx says

    Book said,
    > I guess we’ll end up with a neutral situation:  taxes will remain the same, but government expenditures will rise.

    That is not  a neutral situation.  It is  a loss.  *Spending* is where the biggest problems are, not tax cuts.  The national debt and deficits, and government power run amok, are where the problems are, not primarily taxes.

    If the Republicans prove incapable of reining in spending, 2010-2012, they will be viewed as ineffective.  If it continues past 2012, they will lose quite a few people, including me, forever.

    Cutting taxes while allowing spending to continue to rise will allow for some economic expansion, but it also increases the deficit, and simply provides momentum for the government to continue to grow.  And taxes *will* again rise, while the government will *never* have been shrunk.

    Cutting taxes without cutting spending does nothing more than continue to guarantee our doom.

    • says

      Mike: you’re right. I misspoke. I meant status quo, not neutral. For years, we’ve had this same tax rate, plus annual spending increases, especially since 2006. Not “neutral” — just more of the same.

  13. SADIE says

    If the Republicans prove incapable of reining in spending, 2010-2012, they will be viewed as ineffective.  If it continues past 2012, they will lose quite a few people, including me, forever.
     
    You can add me to the list as well.
     
    At the moment, we are clueless to how much pork is to be stuffed into the tax cut bill.  I did hear that NASCAR would benefit, along with ethanol. If there is more, and I am sure there is, they’re keeping it under wraps until someone can blame it on Bush, Cheney, Rove or Palin. I am already dubious since a) unemployment benefits will be extended for 13 months and b) the frame work of the cuts are for a two-year period, which puts it all on the front political burner for the 2012 election cycle.

  14. Mike Devx says

    Sadie said,
    > I am already dubious since a) unemployment benefits will be extended for 13 months and b) the frame work of the cuts are for a two-year period, which puts it all on the front political burner for the 2012 election cycle.

    I agree. Unemployment benefits were never intended to be just another welfare program, keeping people on the dole perpetually.

    However, politically, it would be extraordinarily difficult to cut off unemployment benefits extensions at this time.  We still have so much to do transmitting the MESSAGE to convince the American People that massive spending cuts are necessary.  They’re so close to being ready, but I don’t think they’re actually quite … completely… ready… for the pain that will result.   Many of these people are in desperate straits.  I think we’d be ok if we extended them for another year, while at the same time strongly reminding the people that unemployment benefits were intended to be short-term only, and that their purpose has been bastardized by the Democrats.  But cutting them off immediately with no warning – at this time – would likely be a political catastrophe.  I’d rather start by abolishing the Department of Education and the Department of Energy than by immediately cutting off unemployment benefits.

  15. SADIE says

    I wasn’t suggesting that the unemployed be hung out to dry, but there must be strings attached. At one time, if you were collecting unemployment, you had to show that you were actively looking for work with names/addresses/tel#’s/dates/signatures of prospective employers,  so that it could be verified. The process may vary state to state. If there is no ‘paid work’ available, then certified volunteer work at a shelter, VA hospital – anywhere there is need. Maybe an economic snooze button – a decrease in benefits the last 90 days.
     
    Honestly, I don’t see much changing. Reid’s windmills are Chinese built, Chinese owned, Chinese managed. Clinton, the Bill half, was touting what a great thing this would be for the American worker. I realize we borrowed a lot of money from the Chinese, but I don’t think becoming Chinese pseudo workers  is a benefit for America. It does, however, make us part of the (GAG) global world the progressives would like to see us capitulate to. We have outsourced almost everything. The thought of windmills, makes me want to heave .. but, if they’re going to built, better here and by Americans.
     
    Solar panels from Spain, windmills from China and politicians from La La  land.
     
     

  16. Mike Devx says

     
    DQ says,
    where do you plan on going?

    There’s always a third party waiting in the wings.  We’ll see about the Tea Partiers.  Should the Republicans renege, it will become very interesting.  Right now, I see the Republicans, as a whole, reneging, and civil war 2012-2016.  They’re too tied into the Washington Power structure to NOT renege on promises to rein in government.  Slashing spending is very difficult to do and requires total commitment, and these people are NOT committed.  Will the Tea Partiers be able to reform the Republican Party, or will they have to abandon it?  We’re discussing what will happen should they abandon it, and I would support a third party, and work for the total destruction of Republicans, to go the way of the Whigs.

  17. says

    off-topic; but an unemployment FYI since a couple of folks have mentioned it:

    Yes, it is absolutely correct that unemployment was never meant to be for as long as it is now for many people.  In some states (it is, despite some federal funding, still a state program; and I hope that it stays that way) you are required to report employers contacted each week (NJ requires 3 on 3 different days). 

    Here’s the rub – most job postings are online and the company is unknown.  One’s resume simply goes in that black hole of cyberspace.  There is no way to know if they received it, have read it, or even if the job is real.  There is no way to follow up with a phone call, email or anything.  Banging my head against a brick wall might be more effective!

    One place that I was temping at, the one manager simply posted a job listing online (anonymously, of course) the next day he went back and, RANDOMLY, pulled off 10 resumes from the over 200 hundred that had responded.  If he didn’t find any he liked he simply went back and pulled a couple more off; again, randomly.  No one ever looked at all the others that had applied – no one. With odds like that maybe one should play the lottery instead!?  Why don’t I just bang my head against a brick wall!

    One thing that I would like to mention is a book that I recently read: The Root of Obama’s Rage by Dinesh D’Souza.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers; but a lot of what the author mentions are things that many of Obama’s critics have been saying.  The book is very well written and it is truly very frightening.  I really did feel like banging my head against the wall when I was finshed reading it for things will not get better until Obama is gone.  A day that cannot come soon enough.

  18. SADIE says

    off-topic; but an unemployment FYI since a couple of folks have mentioned it:
     
    I am not computer literate enough, but isn’t there someway, you can print your history to indicate where emails/resume have been sent.
     
    For what it’s worth, my younger son was laid off for quite. He eventually found a decent job through Craig’s List.

  19. Mike Devx says

    Don Quixote #30
    > That you had to look back 150 years to find the last time a lasting third party emerged says how difficult it is.  It may be necessary, but it will be quite a challenge to make one work.

    Me, I’m not into those kinds of (near-impossible) challenges.   It would be something that would have to happen organically.  If the Republicans are in fact a party of Big-Government, and the small government people desert them, what good is the Republican Party?  As a vehicle for social conservatism?  Social conservatives are none too happy with the Republican Party either.  As a Party, it is corrupt, pays lip-service to its constituencies, and its politicians don’t appear capable of making any impassioned and coherent messages because they simply do not believe in their own philosophy.  Not all of them – but a majority of them, too many of them.  Vested solely in vague ideas about exercising their power (via a constantly growing government) and mostly concerned solely with their own re-election campaigns, no matter what.  The Party is defined by the majority of its members and the majority of them are a sad lot.

    The paradigms of the 20th Century are breaking down on all sides.  These politicians now have to STAND FOR SOMETHING, and they don’t.  Perhaps they can’t.  That will no longer suffice, I believe.  These years are bellweather years, as we arrive at the realization that the “progressive” policies of Western Civ have failed, and we seek alternatives.   But we’ll see, as events unfold.

    I do believe the situation is much as in the mid-1850s, when the nation was convulsed by the various but few issues (not merely slavery) that caused the Civil War and destroyed the Whigs.  I think the time is ripe again.

  20. Mike Devx says

    I’d like to add a little more…
     
    I say the time appears ripe not because I or we want it to be ripe.  I think it’s about to be forced upon us.
     
    We appear to be a rich country, but I believe we’re living beyond our means, and have for decades, by piling up the debt.  You can fake prosperity for only so long.
     
    I believe the problem with focusing solely on taxation is that it puts the cart before the horse.  One of the things I discuss with some conservative friends, and that we’ve agreed on, is that you don’t become rich based on your income; you become rich by controlling your spending.  (How many second-generation wealthy people have squandered what they had and lost it?)  If you cannot control your spending, it doesn’t *matter* what you do on the income side.
     
    As it relates to the government:  If you exercise fiscal restraint, and you keep spending strictly under control, the taxation part naturally takes care of itself:  Taxes WILL be cut down to the size of the spending.
     
    Flip the picture, and you have what we have today: A government completely out of control, with its spending completely out of control.  With its intrusions into the minutiae of our daily lives steadily increasing, but in its micromanagement attempts into our daily lives, utterly incompetent.  We’ve had tax cuts and tax increases through all the steady government growth, yet look where we are today, and where we will disastrously be in about twenty years.
     
    Politics and government is a social science, with all its lack of rigor, so it often comes down to what you believe and which statistics and “reports” you choose to support your argument.  (Which is why Paul Krugman can keep some number (but hopefully a steadily declining number) of readers who accept his bizarrely flawed arguments.  :-)   And Krugman appears to be on the warpath in his impassioned arguments to keep his Keynesian schemes alive, in article after article.  It is rather amazing to see him become so impassioned, and *prolific* with his articles these days, when it seems clear (at least to me) that he is so very wrong.
     
    In sum it seems to me that out of control government is about to smash hard-up against the brick wall of reality, as the fake prosperity game nears its absolute end, and we start to pay the bankruptcy piper.  I believe it is an unavoidable reality that is looming over us.  And I still trust the American people, in general, to recognize that reality as it really starts to hit.  It’s already begun, but we’ve hardly seen the serious effects yet.  We’re a pragmatic people, and I’m hopeful in the end we will (as a people) do the right things.
     
    None of this requires a Republican Party.
     
     
     
     
     

  21. SADIE says

    I believe we’re living beyond our means, and have for decades, by piling up the debt.
     
    It’s healthy citizens have not.
     
    Therein lies the chasm. Any attempt to wrestle the elephant to floor will have the donkey kicking at our heads. By that I mean, both parties are incapable. The thing of it is, the negative effects of bad decisions have to impact almost everyone and almost at the same time. If we can’t hit the politicians in their wallets/purses where it would genuinely hurt them, we are doomed to the continuing two-tier system…them and us. We have to be the ones to shout, “Let them eat cake”.
     
    Overall, I think we’ve outgrown the two party system and it’s no more than the missionary position at this point with one of the two on top and the citizens always at the bottom. The current system is broken and I don’t believe can be repaired. During the last 10 years we’ve gone from Bush Derangement Syndrome to Democrat Derangement Syndrome.  Yes, I know one is more valid than the other, but it isn’t making a dent in the ‘inner circles of madness’. What we don’t know is how far down do we go, before up (fill in your own definition of ‘up’)  is the only recourse.

  22. binadaat says

    mike said: I believe it is an unavoidable reality that is looming over us.  And I still trust the American people, in general, to recognize that reality as it really starts to hit. It’s already begun, but we’ve hardly seen the serious effects yet.  We’re a pragmatic people, and I’m hopeful in the end we will (as a people) do the right things.
    so what happened in California last month?
    the state is dead in the water and the citizens that voted ignored this.
     

  23. Mike Devx says

    binadaat,
    Yes, the very liberal people of California and Illinois are already in bankruptcy, and they, like the partiers in the Masque of the Red Death, are determined to party all the way unto death.
     
    Just so long as the rest of us don’t have to bail them out.  Heh, I can hear the argument already:
     
    California is TOO BIG TO FAIL!
     
    Screw em.
     

  24. SADIE says

    Fine and dandy to refer to conservatives as ‘hostage takers’ but the use of the ‘N’ word about liberals, you get advise from Gibbs. Welcome to Round 1 of net neutrality.
     
     
    White House press secretary Robert Gibbs advised the liberal commenter Keith Olbermann on Monday to refrain from using comparisons to Nazi Germany after the MSNBC host likened President Obama’s deal on tax cuts to Nazi appeasement.

    “Whenever you compare anything to what the Nazis did, if you ever get to that point in your speech, stop, because nothing does, and hopefully, God willing, nothing ever will,” Gibbs told reporters. 

    Asked if Obama heard Olbermann’s “special comment,” Gibbs replied, “I doubt the president heard that.”
     
    http://www.politico.com/politico44/perm/1210/apocalypse_no_2b8b0e54-510a-43c9-8d42-ec10791a7867.html

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