Friday, September 19, 2014
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Obama's Towel Toss

In case you missed it, the president has thrown in the towel on governing and gone into full-campaign mode.

Obama's Towel Toss

 President Barack Obama reaches out to shake hands with a boy as he greets people on the tarmac during his arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Monday, Sept., 19, 2011 in New York. (AP Photo / Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama reaches out to shake hands with a boy as he greets people on the tarmac during his arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Monday, Sept., 19, 2011 in New York. (AP Photo / Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

In case you missed it, somewhere during President Obama's White House Rose Garden speech on Monday he threw in the towel.

Without exacty saying so, he gave up on governing and went into full-campaign mode.

Gone was any attempt to change the way Washington works. Gone was any effort to compromise with Republican leaders. Gone was the goal of reaching what only recently he sought as a "grand bargain" of shared concessions between the counter ideologies.

Instead, the president preached to the American people, playing off polling data that shows majority opposition to cuts or restructuring in programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Insread, he played to the class-split popularity of increased taxation on the wealthy and big business rather than deep, potentially painful cuts in government spending.

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He even threw in a bumper sticker: "This isn't class warfare. It's math."

This is the same president whose recent stance was built on the argument that compromise was a necessity, that immediate action was mandatory because the unemployed cannot wait until the next election for help.

This is the same president who played to the pleas of average Americans who asked Washington and Congress to work together for solutions to ease the angst of economic woes.

Now, he's playing only to the 2012 electorate.

His soft edge that tried to butter the bread of compromise is replaced with a steely threats of vetoes.

He forcefully (again) called for ending Bush-era tax cuts for couples making more than $250,000. He called for creating a minimum tax on those making $1 million or more. He called for closing corporate loopholes and ending subsidies on big energy companies.

In short, he drew a line. This is what Democrats stand for. Let Republicans defend the rich and big business. I'm for everybody else. Now let the people vote.

And this might well work. Clearly most Americans are neither wealthy nor fans of a tax code that unfairly punishes them and favors the rich. On the other hand, it seems we're headed back to campaign speeches rather than actual action.

House Speaker John Boehner says, "Pitting one group of Americans against another is not leadership."

He's right. But the president is no longer playing leader. He's now playing politics. Just as Boehner's party has done from the day Obama took office. The "change" that was promised for Washington has been abandoned. Democrats have joined Republicans in putting party and politics above the needs of people. The towel has been tossed.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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