Wednesday, August 10, 2011



      President Obama said last month, “I’m willing to make some decisions that are very tough and will give my base of voters further reason to give me a hard time.” Unfortunately, the President’s capitulation to cuts for a debt ceiling increase has done just that. Progressive supporters including Representative John Conyers (D-MI) say they have “had it,” because for the third time since the November elections, the President has blinked while bargaining with Republicans and their Tea Party base. The first time was the tax cuts for the wealthy and the second was the Continuing Resolution to fund the government in April. Each time the Republicans’ brinkmanship has been rewarded with a more conservative bill. Now, he has given into the “cuts only” philosophy to raise the debt ceiling while merely talking about gaining revenues in the future by reversing rich tax cuts.

      Results for the President have not been good. The president’s approval rating dropped to 45%. In May, before the debt ceiling negotiations, it was around 50%. The change in approval is due to losing favor with the left and independents—the polling says he has “not been liberal enough.”

      The President continues to bargain with the very same people who will do all in their power to defeat him – even when they are willing to risk the country’s economic well-being. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) overtly says, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Even sweetheart deals will not soften the opposition’s goals.

      Representative Conyers puts it this way: “These concessions with the people that are going to oppose him… I don't see where they're going to get him in the end.” On taxes, Medicare, and foreign policy, the American people disagree with the Tea Party and support the President -- 64% support ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, 56% agree with a withdrawal from Afghanistan, while a staggering 78% oppose cutting Medicare spending. To Conyers, for Obama to give when he is right on his original positions could be suicidal for him and the nation.

      The election in historically conservative district NY-26 proves the point. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) turned around the 3rd most Republican district in the nation. She used a laser focus and killer instinct to hammer her opponent over the Paul Ryan (R-WI) budget plan that would “voucherize” Medicare. She said emphatically, “I will stop at nothing to protect the guarantees we’ve made to our seniors over the last seventy-six years.” Senior citizens supported her because they get their health care from Medicare and want it left intact so that their grandchildren can eventually use it. This is the type of action many Democratic leaders like Conyers are longing to see from the President.

      At a July 27th "Out of Poverty" Caucus Press Conference, Conyers stated, “From this day forward …we want him to come out on our side, not to watch and wait… We’re suffering. We’ve had it.” Conyers was the first Member of Congress to endorse the President in 2008 but now says “we have to make him” fight for important causes like jobs and Medicare. Conyers is convinced that Obama will win in the upcoming campaign if he wins on policy instead of continuing to cave and settle for deals.

  • Robert Weiner, Washington, DC, is a former White House spokesman and communications director for House Government Operations Committee; John Horton is a political analyst at Robert Weiner Associates