Friday, February 06, 2009

Obama goes on offensive, slams Senate Republicans for obstructing economic stimulus bill

It appears that President Barack Obama has finally gone on the offensive against the Republican congressional obstructionism against his economic stimulus bill. Speaking before House Democrats at a conference in Williamsburg, Virginia, President Obama urged the congressional lawmakers to put aside their differences and pass his economic stimulus package. President Obama also took some potshots against Senate Republicans for their obstructionism against his stimulus plan. According to the New York Times:

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — President Obama urged House Democrats tonight to set aside their differences with the Senate and Republicans in order to push forward quickly with the stimulus package. At times, he sounded irritated with critics who contended the bill was too big or its purpose wrong-headed.

And while he was indeed before a friendly audience, or, as the House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, phrased it, “among family,” Mr. Obama sought to chide his former congressional colleagues just a little bit:

“These aren’t just statistics. This is not a game, this is not a contest for who’s in power, who’s up and who’s down. These are your constituents. These are families you know and you care about. I believe it is important for us to set aside some of the gamesmanship in this town and get something done.”

You can view President Obama's speech here via YouTube:

Part one of President Obama's economic speech;

Part two of President Obama's economic speech;

A couple of points here to note on President Obama's economic speech. The first is President Obama's exasperated frustration at the GOP obstructionism taking place on this stimulus debate. President Obama came into the Oval Office with the intention of bringing a level of bipartisanship back into government, after eight years of the Bush administration's partisan politics. He went to Capitol Hill to visit with congressional Republicans on his stimulus bill. He offered to compromise on the bill. And yet, the House Republicans completely snubbed Obama with every single House Republican voting no on the stimulus package. And now the Senate Republicans have been threatening to filibuster the Obama stimulus package. So while President Obama has been making an effort to provide a bipartisan government, the congressional Republicans have been slapping Obama down like insolent children intent on playing partisan politics.

This may have been President Obama's intent all along. I found an incredible comment by Zmulls in this Washington Monthly post on the Obama speech. It is a fascinating political analysis of just how the Obama administration will allow the opposition to shoot first, before deconstructing and destroying their political opponent's arguments. From Zmulls' comment in the Washington Monthly:

I've said this elsewhere and I think it's worth saying again. After watching Obama, and seeing him handle this first GOP onslaught, I'm coming to the conclusion that this coming-late-to-the-game is a feature, not a bug. I think this is the way he rolls. And it's frustrating to watch but might be crazy like a fox.

Remember the Wright week? It looked like he was sunk. But he waited (it seemed too long?) and when he did the speech in Philadelphia, it not only neutralized the Wright story, it killed it dead, and turned it into a positive. It was an amazing piece of ju-jitsu and may have won him the election.

Obama lets the other side shoot first. Give it their best shot. Makes them show their game. Cause after a couple of days, he knows their game and how to beat it. He doesn't come out swinging, he formulates a plan, the best plan, the right plan. A few days into the GOP game, they've laid down all their best cards, they're out of ammunition and here comes Obama with an answer to everything they've said, and they have nothing to come back with. And because he gave them the hand of friendship at first, they're in a worse position.

It's high-risk, high-stakes. I really think it's his thing to hold back and force the other guy to play first. I don't have the stomach or the cojones to play the game that way. I'm starting to think Obama does, and that's why he wins.

Zmulls comment nails it! The Obama campaign never shot from the hip in responding to political attacks from their opponents. They always seemed to respond to an attack a day after with a calculated argument that really destroyed the opponent's attack. The Reverend Wright controversy was a perfect example of this. There were the campaign smears that Obama had to deal with on refusing to wear an American flag pin, or dressing up in African clothes. There were the consistent attacks by then Republican presidential candidate John McCain against Obama on economics, the U.S. war in Iraq, terrorism, the Bill Ayers controversy, or just plain, old character assassinations. The Obama campaign was able to deflect these attacks and character assassinations. In the case of the 2008 election, the Obama campaign was probably successful due to the combination of the campaign's ability to deconstruct the GOP arguments against Obama, the self-destruction and consistent rebooting of the McCain campaign, and the American voters wish for change after eight years of the Bush administration. When Barack Obama stepped into the Oval Office, he may have had a two-fold plan in offering real bipartisanship to the Republican congressmen first, but then going into campaign attack mode if the GOP decided to reject Obama's outstretched bipartisan hand. The Republicans have decided to reject bipartisanship with President Obama. Now President Obama may just be coming after the Republicans with a very big stick.

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