Saturday, January 30, 2010

Obama versus the US Congress House Republicans (GOP) with UPDATE

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"What luck for rulers that men do not think" -  Adolf Hitler

"The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid is cocksure while the intelligent is full of doubt." - Bertrand Russell

“Most people would rather die than think, in fact, they do so”. – Bertrand Russell


I just finished reading the below article and  watching the video of Obama's Q&A exchanges with the House Republicans. 

It really is encouraging and refreshing to witness again the spontaneity, intelligence, factual basis and clarity of Obama's responses to the generally white Republicans who apparently have repeatedly underestimated and miscalculated Obama, whom they obviously wanted to ambush and roast in their own lair. 

In the end, what supposed was to be only a 30-minute Q&A, became an hour and a few minutes long, and apparently the Republicans were glad to have Obama leave [right-wing Rupert Murdoch's FOX News --the favorite cable channel of those I consider lazy minds or nonthinkers-- stopped its coverage of the event when it realized the Q&A was a disaster to its favorite political party (GOP)].

I agree with all that Obama said, his attitude and the way he addressed the issues raised in this Q&A. I think and feel Obama should do more of this subdued "ass-kicking" tone, rather than constantly maintain/try to be "cool" and so "reasonable" as his opponents, especially ideologues in the mass media, big business and the GOP are out to "get' and oppose him [despite his seemingly naive trust in human reason from all], who spin lazy minds with distorted stories; keep on their rhetorics and not on the real issues that the American citizenry currently confronts. 

(Though, I do not agree with Obama on his foreign policy, which in the main is a continuation of that from the Bush-Cheney regime and of previous Democratic and Republican administrations from Teddy Roosevelt et al in pursuing their historically self-proclaimed Manifest Destiny or the American habits of empire; in all its flavors/current manifestations.)

Going back to last night's Obama Q&A with the GOP, I say that I can not improve on Ms. Joan Walsh's writing about what she felt and thought (which I did too) when she watched the video.  See Joan Walsh piece, click:

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.” - Archibald MacLeish, Librarian of Congress
Obama vs. House GOP: Best TV ever
The president smoothly mocks House Republicans, in an entertaining U.S. take on the prime minister's question time - Mike Madden, SALON, Jan. 29, 2010 |
Before President Obama started speaking to the GOP House Issues Conference's retreat in Baltimore Friday, the GOP presented him with a little book, one that wrapped up all of the policy ideas they've had since he took office that have languished. It had a catchy title: "Better Solutions." The pamphlet may not be an ideal blueprint for governing -- it only takes 30 pages to wrap up everything from economic stimulus to national security to financial reform -- but, as it turned out, it did make for a pretty good prop.

Which Obama demonstrated about an hour into what was easily the most entertaining program C-SPAN (or any cable news network, really) has aired in a long time. "You say, for example, that we've offered a health care plan, and I look up -- this is just [in] the book that you've just provided me, 'Summary of GOP Health Care Reform Bill,'" Obama said, casually flipping through the book as Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., stood by. Price had demanded the president tell Republicans how they should answer constituents who don't like the way the White House says the GOP hasn't offered any ideas. So Obama played it deadpan. '"The GOP plan will lower health care premiums for American families and small businesses, addressing America's number one priority for health reform.' I mean, that's an idea that we all embrace. But specifically it's got to work."
Two days after his feisty State of the Union speech, Obama's trip to the retreat started off slowly, with a speech that could have worked almost anywhere with only a few edits ahead of time. And then the question-and-answer session got started, and the event turned into a spectacle, the kind of thing that hasn't been seen in American politics in years -- and probably won't again, once the people responsible for putting it together go back to look at the video. (Which is too bad, because NBC does have an opening for a 10 p.m. show, and this was a lot more watchable than Leno.) Rarely has his administration done such a good job of bluntly underscoring the differences between what Obama wants to do and what Republicans would prefer if they had power. The president was funny and disarming, but he defended his policies fiercely, and he tiptoed up to the line of calling Republicans liars to their faces.
"We've got to close the gap a little bit between the rhetoric and the reality," he said. "I'm not suggesting that we're going to agree on everything ... but if the way these issues are being presented by the Republicans is that this is some wild-eyed plot to impose huge government in every aspect of our lives, what happens is you guys then don't have a lot of room to negotiate with me. I mean, the fact of the matter is is that many of you, if you voted with the administration on something, are politically vulnerable in your own base, in your own party. You've given yourselves very little room to work in a bipartisan fashion because what you've been telling your constituents is, 'This guy's doing all kinds of crazy stuff that's going to destroy America.'"
The ironic, detached style and professorial wonkiness that has sometimes made it hard for Obama to connect on a visceral level since he took office worked perfectly in Baltimore. And what could have been a dangerous event politically, with Republicans riding high in polls and Obama's agenda on its heels, turned into a presidential seminar, instead. He ridiculed a year's worth of Republican talking points on the stimulus: "The notion that I would somehow resist doing something that cost half as much but would produce twice as many jobs -- why would I resist that? I wouldn't ... It doesn't make sense if somebody could tell me, 'You could do this cheaper and get increased results,' that I wouldn't say, 'Great.' The problem is, I couldn't find credible economists who would back up the claims that you just made." 

When Rep. Mike Pence tried to push him to commit to "across the board tax cuts," Obama pointed out that the stimulus plan did cut taxes for millions of Americans -- but he couldn't resist twisting the knife a bit. "What you may consider across-the-board tax cuts could be, for example, greater tax cuts for people who are making a billion dollars," he said, tying his answer into the Democratic effort to paint Republicans as friends of the rich without blinking. "I may not agree to a tax cut for Warren Buffett. You may be calling for an across-the-board tax cut for the banking industry right now. I may not agree to that." He mocked the GOP for voting in lockstep against the stimulus bill, then trying to take credit for projects it funded: "A lot of you have gone to appear at ribbon cuttings for the same projects that you voted against." Sixty-eight of them, to be exact, according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
GOP aides only agreed at the last minute to air the questions, and the lack of political polish made it seem like a freewheeling U.S. version of Britain's prime minister's questions. But on TV, the event played even more one-sided than it probably was in real life. Except Pence, who was on the stage with Obama, the other questions all came from disembodied voices in a dark hotel ballroom. Which worked all right for Republicans like Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who basically just lobbed a softball about the economy. But when others tried to push Obama, the setup only helped him bat away their questions as they flew out of the darkness.
"What were the old annual deficits under Republicans have now become the monthly deficits under Democrats," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas (who Obama kept calling "Jim," for some reason). "You are soon to submit a new budget, Mr. President. Will that new budget, like your old budget, triple the national debt and continue to take us down the path of increasing the cost of government to almost 25 percent of our economy?"
The president laughed. "Jim, with all due respect, I've just got to take this last question as an example of how it's very hard to have the kind of bipartisan work that we're going to do, because the whole question was structured as a talking point for running a campaign," he said. "When we came into office, the deficit was $1.3 trillion. $1.3 trillion. So when you say that suddenly I've got ... a monthly deficit that's higher than the annual deficit left by Republicans, that's factually just not true, and you know it's not true."
The whole thing basically went like that: Republican asks obnoxious question rooted in Glenn Beck-ian talking points; Obama swats it away, makes the questioner look silly, and then smiles at the end. It got so bad, in fact, that Fox News cut away from the event before it was over. Democratic operatives around Washington watching it had pretty much the same reaction: "Where the hell has this guy been?" One source said GOP aides probably wished they'd spoken to John McCain "about what happened to him in the presidential debates" before they broadcast the event. "It's quite a show," a White House official said, apparently going for the same deadpan tone the president was.
Republican aides tried to argue that Obama was struggling to get past his initial talking points, but that was a pretty desultory attempt at spin. By the time Obama was done, and had stayed about 30 minutes past when he was scheduled to leave, Republican leadership was ready to get him out of the room. One GOP lawmaker asked for one more question, and as Obama started to say he was out of time, Pence jumped in, too: "He's gone way over." And with that, Obama took his booklet of GOP policy proposals and left the room -- in much better political shape, possibly, than he was when he walked in.
Watch the 66 minutes question-and-answer session video here, if you missed it -- or if you just want to see it again: (Please visit the Source indicated below. - Bert)
Visit for breaking newsworld news, and news about the economy



UPDATE (02/03/2010): 

The deficit blame game

Millions of voters believe the GOP line about Obama's runaway spending. It's up to him to set the record straight, - By Gene Lyons, SALON,  Feb 4, 2010
If President Obama's recent face-to-face meeting with congressional Republicans had been a prizefight, they'd have stopped it: Obama by TKO. It was such a mismatch that Fox News, unofficial network of the GOP, basically conceded defeat by cutting away 20 minutes before it ended. Other networks showed it all.
Republicans appeared to make the elementary mistake of believing their own ... um, propaganda. Believe it or not, Obama's use of Teleprompters has convinced GOP stalwarts that he's kind of thick. I get frequent e-mails to that effect from people who marveled at the wit and wisdom of George W. Bush.
I know, I know. That's what they think, is all I'm saying.
House Republicans shouldn't have allowed the encounter to be televised. But then believing their own disinformation is basically what makes them Republicans.
So anyway, up jumps freshman Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas.
"You are soon to submit a new budget, Mr. President. Will that new budget, like your old budget, triple the national debt and continue to take us down the path of increasing the cost of government to almost 25 percent of our economy? That's the question, Mr. President."
Hensarling appeared to think he'd posed a real zinger. Obama's runaway spending is an article of faith among the Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck crowd. Karl Rove, Bush's cynical political guru, pushes it the way Lenin pushed "the withering away of the state."
Obama jumped on it. "With all due respect," he said, "I've just got to take this last question as an example of how it's very hard to have the kind of bipartisan work that we're going to do, because the whole question was structured as a talking point for running a campaign ...
"The fact of the matter is, is that when we came into office, the deficit was $1.3 trillion. $1.3 trillion. So when you say that suddenly I've got ... a monthly deficit that's higher than the annual deficit left by Republicans, that's factually just not true, and you know it's not true.
"And what is true is that we came in already with a $1.3 trillion deficit before I had passed any law. What is true is, we came in with $8 trillion worth of debt over the next decade.
"(That) had nothing to do with anything that we had done. It had to do with the fact that in 2000, when there was a budget surplus of $200 billion, you had a Republican administration and a Republican Congress, and we had two tax cuts that weren't paid for, you had a prescription drug plan -- the biggest entitlement plan, by the way, in several decades -- that was passed, without it being paid for, you had two wars that were done through supplementals [i.e., off-budget appropriations] and then you had $3 trillion projected because of the lost revenue of this recession."
Read it and weep, because those are the facts. Two weeks before Obama was inaugurated, the Congressional Budget Office projected the 2009 deficit at $1.2 trillion, adding that due to the economic crisis the new administration also inherited, "collections from corporate income taxes are anticipated to decline by 27 percent and individual income taxes by 8 percent; in normal economic conditions, they would both grow." Mandated spending on unemployment insurance, food stamps, etc., increased.
A year later, little had changed. A December 2009 analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concluded that the Bush administration's fiscal legacy "explain(s) virtually the entire deficit over the next 10 years."
Economic stimulus and all, new spending by the Obama administration amounts to roughly 10 percent of this year's deficit.
The GOP response to these incontrovertible facts amounts to boo-hoo-hoo. Republicans who stayed focused on Bill Clinton's zipper from 1998 until Bush's failures made necessary the promulgation of a new rule of Washington etiquette, now whine that decent people simply don't resort to arithmetic. The world began anew last January.
Obama promised miracles, they say, and he hasn't delivered. My view is that in pursuit of illusory bipartisanship, he's let congressional Republicans pout like children too long. Fiscally speaking, the GOP keeps promising voters an excursion to Big Rock Candy Mountain: lower taxes, higher revenue, prosperity all around.
Except it never happens. Multimillionaires get tax cuts, we get the bill. Virtually the entire national debt was run up by President Reagan and the two Bushes. Meanwhile, job creation under George W. Bush was the lowest since World War II. Then when Democrats take office, they style themselves "deficit hawks," and caterwaul about runaway spending.
It's like a carnival sideshow act. Except that it plays. Many readers know these things. Obama's political challenge, however, is that millions of ordinary voters don't have a clue. So he's got to find ways to tell them over and over again until they do. Republicans seem unlikely to furnish him another platform.
© 2010, Gene Lyons. Distributed by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.


Anonymous said...

Not all Filipinos agree with you. I do not like nor ever liked his policies dealing with abortion, foreign policy, the economy and health care reform. His "stimulus" policy has plunged this country into debt 3 times more than the previous administration. No matter what you say about this "smooth talker", I say he should put his money where his mouth is.

- John Saliente

Bert M. Drona said...


Thanks for the feedback.

I did not claim anyone, Filipino or non-Filipino in America agrees with me. That is NOT my goal.

And I do not expect anyone to like Obama's ideas. I doubt that you even spent a few minutes understanding this article or watching the video clip of the live exchange Friday night, Jan 29,2010.

A person who starts talking by saying he does not like or never like someone's policies (ideas)as important as the public issues discussed, I can only say that person has a closed mind.