My favorite part of the 2008 presidential campaign was when Barack Obama addressed John McCain's (and moreso, Sarah Palin) bad habit of associating Obama with various unsavories. The favorite line at the time was that Obama was "palin' around with terrorists," to which the Democratic nominee responded that if McCain really believed it he should "say it to my face" in the upcoming debate. It was the point when I knew he had it in the bag. He out-muscled the darling of the "pro-defense" Republican straight talker with a bar room request to take this outside. McCain of course shrunk away.
It's been that kind of tough talk I'd been missing as the President strove for bi-partisanship in passing healthcare reform. It didn't come and the Republicans took control of the debate and poisoned the discussion with nonsense like death panels and federal takeovers of health care. I wanted Barack Obama to get tough and call bullshit. He didn't and reform is all but sunk when we've come so close.
The State of the Union address piqued my hopes again though when he called out Republicans for simply opposing and not governing. Now today, in a televised appearance before the House GOP retreat in Baltimore President Obama more forcefully took Republicans to task.
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 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 is going to destroy America.
That is Barack Obama calling bullshit.
It's a little too late to salvage health care reform, but I am hoping it sets the standard for future legislative action from the White House. As we saw from the campaign, Barack Obama and his team are among the smartest political strategists we've ever seen. In the first year of his Presidency Obama may have learned how important that strategy is in implementing policy. The saying is that good policy is good politics, but you can rarely get that good policy passed if you don't do the politicking necessary to win the public debate that arises around any landmark legislation. It's landmark because it's never been done before and it's never been done before for a good reason: it's really, really hard.
As a bonus slap, President Obama also bashed Republicans for hypocritically staging ribbon cutting events and photo-opps when the stimulus checks (that NONE of them supported) started to arrive in their districts:
And then the last portion of it was infrastructure, which as I've said, a lot of you have gone to appear at ribbon cuttings for the same projects that you voted against. Now I say all this not to re-litigate past, but it's simply to state that the component parts of the stimulus are consistent with what many of you say are important things to do — rebuilding our infrastructure, tax cuts for families and businesses, and making sure that we were providing states and individuals some support when the roof was caving in.
I hope the President treats the Republicans consistent with what they are: an opposition party, not a partner in governing.
It gets better. Check out how the President responded to Mike Pence's repeating of the cannard that the stimulus plan hasn't worked:
"We had lost 650,000 jobs in December  - I'm assuming your'e not faulting my policies for that," said Obama. "We had lost, it turns out, 700,000 jobs in January, the month I was sworn in - I'm assuming it wasn't my administration policies that accounted for that. We had lost another 650,000 jobs the subsequent month, before any of my policies had gone into effect,t so I'm assuming that wasn't as a consequence of our policies. That doesn't reflect the failure of the Recovery Act."
I haven't had time yet to watch this but it is clearly some must-see TV. I am encouraged.