Monday, January 21, 2013

Will We See a New, Far Tougher Obama?

Today is Inauguration Day in Washington, D.C., and as Barack Obama begins his next four year term there is much speculation as to whether or not we will see a tougher Obama than during his first term where ridiculous efforts at bipartisanship proved just as futile as many of us could have predicted.  And then there was the maddening display of Obama punting his leadership role and waiting for Congressional Democrats to lead the way.  It was enough to make me want to pull my hair out and this blog certainly took Obama to task on may occasions.  Will we see a more reality based leadership this go around and will Obama face the reality that many in the GOP controlled House of Representatives would as soon give him a cup of coffee laced with cyanide as they would compromise and reach an agreement that would benefit the country even if it upset the Christofascist/Tea Party base of the GOP.  A piece in Huffington Post looks at this question.  Here are highlights:

As President Barack Obama enters his second term, his aides have concluded he likely will fall short on one of his signature promises. Barring some collectively cathartic Beltway experience, the Obama administration will not usher in an era of post-partisanship. The forces of gridlock continue to have the upper hand, and they will have a tangible impact on the president's tactics and ambitions.

Obama and his aides are neither fretting nor apologizing. Rather, while expressing a continued preference for politics by consensus, they are embracing the need for a more aggressive, even confrontational approach. The president signaled as much by vowing simply to not negotiate with Republicans over raising the debt ceiling. He upped the ante with the introduction of his gun policy reforms, which were more comprehensive than expected.

The message was solidified this past week with the announcement that Obama for America -- the organization that lifted the president to two election victories -- would be converted to a non-profit entity for the express purpose of pushing the White House's agenda in Obama's second term. One senior administration official was practically giddy about the prospect of using the organization's massive email list for policy purposes, admitting the campaign group had failed to do so effectively during the president's first term.

The White House has made similar boasts before, so skeptics have their reasons. But this time, a dysfunctional Washington and a weakened but more dogmatic Republican Party make a combative strategy the best option.

As for the next term, "I think a lot of it will end up having to do with how the Republican Party sees the future," Axelrod added. "Survival is a strong instinct. If Republicans think there is a political advantage to them personally to continue this Manichean struggle, then that doesn't bode well."

During Obama's first term, Republicans rebuffed the president time and again. Eventually, the president's aides concluded that more could be done working around or against Congress, rather than with it.  The seeds of that approach -- which involve barnstorming outside the Beltway, urging voters to pressure elected officials, and taking harder lines for negotiations -- were planted during the payroll tax cut fight in early 2012 and bloomed during the fiscal cliff standoff at year's end.

Inside the White House, she added, "there is a recognition that there are only so many hours that you can spend sitting around the table talking to or at people who have no interest in helping you." 

Those who know Obama best insist that he isn't giving up on the notion of post-partisanship. Pressing the idea is a useful public relations tactic, they argued, portraying opponents as hopelessly intractable if they don't bend. Moreover, the public still wants him to try. According to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, 39 percent of respondents want the president to cooperate more with Republicans. Only 22 percent want him to cooperate less; 16 percent think he cooperates too much and 38 percent think he doesn't cooperate enough. 

Frankly, I'm in the 16% that thinks Obama cooperates far too much.

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