by Michael H. Cottman, BlackAmericaWeb.com
When it comes to negotiating with Republicans, President Barack Obama decided it was best to go along to get along.
And despite the relentless criticism from angry liberal Democrats, the president did the right thing for all the right reasons. Obama made a wise – and courageous – choice, and I don’t see the problem. Critics say they want to see a more decisive president – well, now they’ve got one, so deal with it.
Leadership is about making tough decisions, and Obama chose to negotiate with GOP leaders instead of fighting. He chose to protect two million Americans from losing unemployment benefits instead of leaving them twisting in the wind.
“Because of this agreement, two million Americans who lost their jobs and are looking for work will be able to pay their rent and put food on their table,” Obama said Tuesday during a press conference at the White House.
“And in exchange for a temporary extension of the high-income tax breaks – not a permanent but a temporary extension – a policy that I opposed but that Republicans are unwilling to budge on, this agreement preserves additional tax cuts for the middle class that I fought for and that Republicans opposed two years ago,” Obama said.
Obama openly chastised Democrats, warning them against being “sanctimonious” and reminding them that “this country was founded on compromise.” The president said he wanted to free Americans who were being held by Republicans as political hostages.
This week, Obama rightfully received praise from black mayors, legislators and civic organizations from across the country.
“The president refused to say poor people and the unemployed must wait until Congress could strike the perfect deal for them,” according to a statement from the National Congress of Black Women. “The president did the right thing, whether we like it or not.”
“There are around 73,000 people currently unemployed in Philadelphia who are very relieved at the action President Obama took,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said in a statement. “President Obama chose not to play chess with peoples’ lives.”
Obama, who campaigned on a platform of unifying Democrats and Republicans, acknowledged that he made major concessions to Republicans. A protracted battle with Republicans would have gotten Obama and the Democrats nowhere, and more Americans would have suffered.
“A long political fight that carried over into next year might have been good politics, but it would be a bad deal for the economy, and it would be a bad deal for the American people. And my responsibility as president is to do what’s right for the American people. That’s a responsibility I intend to uphold as long as I am in this office,” Obama said.
But some liberal Democrats are being unreasonable and shortsighted. They’re angry that Obama extended the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans. It seems the president was backed into a corner. He wanted to extend unemployment benefits for Americans in need – which Republicans were resisting – and he saw the Bush tax cuts issue as a way to secure his agenda.
The president ultimately did the right thing, but let’s face it: Obama was going to catch a verbal beatdown regardless. And it’s too bad because Obama’s heart is in the right place. It’s just that Democrats are now questioning his head.
And it’s ridiculous.
“I think the president made a huge mistake in supporting any extension of tax cuts,” said Steve Hildebrand, the deputy national director of Obama’s presidential campaign, to The Huffington Post.
About 20 House Democrats lined up at microphones this week to complain about the president’s proposal. According to one senior Democratic aide, in addition to concerns about the substance of the proposal, equally upsetting to attendees was how “House Democrats were left out of the process at the end.
And Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) said he would “do everything in my power to make certain that legislation along these lines does not pass during the lame-duck session.”
Meanwhile, the White House pointed to three areas of the president’s agreement:
• Working families will not lose their tax cut. A typical working family faces a tax increase of over $3,000 on January 1st. That’s avoided under this framework agreement, and working families won’t see their tax cuts go away next year.
• It focuses on high impact job creation measures. The framework agreement includes some of the best measures for jumpstarting growth and job creation, including a full year of emergency unemployment insurance benefits, a nearly $120 billion payroll tax cut for working families and a continuation of tax credits for working families.
• It does not worsen the medium- and long-term deficit. These are responsible, temporary measures to support our economy that will not add costs by the middle of the decade.
“I think it’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage takers, unless the hostage gets harmed, then people will question the wisdom of that strategy,” Obama said at the White House this week. “In this case, the hostage was the American people and I was not willing to see them get harmed.”
Obama, correctly, stood on principle and did what was in the best interest of the American people. And misguided Democrats who disagree with the president should get over it, help him lead – or get out of the way.