If PolitiFact is sincere in sniffing out the 2010 “Lie of the Year,” its editors would do well to check out the Politico today. Less than 24 hours after Congress, which is still in the control of the Democrats, passed the Bush tax cuts, Politico wipes its sleepy eyes and declares that:
Barack Obama makes the sale
Seriously, that’s their big headline. The story that accompanies it is every bit as accurate.
Democrats are about to surrender the House. Republicans are pinching themselves for getting a tasty tax deal with an estate-tax cherry on top. And liberals say President Barack Obama is the biggest sell-out since Bob Dylan went electric.
Yet for all that drama, President Barack Obama closed the most impressive sales job of his presidency a few minutes before the clock struck midnight on Thursday –winning House approval of a broadly popular tax-cut and unemployment extension opposed by the extremes of both parties.
Whose policy just won in Washington? Let’s look back to February 2009. President Obama and the Democrats were riding high. And the Bush tax cuts were on the chopping block, thanks to the President’s own tax raising budget.
And who actually did the best sales job on this policy? It wasn’t Barack Obama. Politico apparently forgot what happened just last Friday.
As a sort of coup de grace, Obama last Friday escorted former President Bill Clinton into the White House briefing room, where the former president praised the deal as the best compromise possible during a memorable 30-minute exchange with reporters.
Abdicating his job is now a “coup de grace,” and bugging out now qualifies as “escorting” the former President. The Taiwanese animation of Obama’s “coup de grace” was more accurate. And let’s not forget, Obama spent two press conferences prior to the Fail arguing that the tax cut deal wasn’t even very good. Some sales job.
The entity most responsible for the “sale” of the Bush tax cuts was the American people, who saw the prospect of taxes rising sharply in January with all due horror and made sure that their representation in Washington heard loud and clear what to do about it. The entity most responsible for getting us to where we were, facing that across the board tax hike, was the Democratic Party of the Bush era, which forced the tax cuts’ impermanence in the first place. Barack Obama himself campaigned against the Bush tax cuts while his party routinely called them “irresponsible” and even blamed them for triggering the 2008 economic meltdown (ignoring their own role, and that of Fannie-Freddie, along the way).
But here’s where things stand now. The lame duck Democratic Congress just passed, by a larger margin than the Republican Congress a few years ago, tax cuts first put on the table by President George W. Bush, a Republican. The lame duck Democratic Congress had to pull a terrible, business-as-usual omnipork spending bill in the face of unified GOP opposition and a massive outcry from the American people. Folks can argue that the pork in that bill only amounted to a “rounding error” on the overall national spending binge, but isn’t that the point? Congress couldn’t claim that it’s serious about dealing with the big ticket items without first showing some seriousness about dealing with the smaller items. Harry Reid’s pulled pork sandwich was the first step to fixing the much larger Congressional spending problems. Obama was a bystander to all that, and his porky history tells us where he would have been had he still been in the Senate.
Politico seems to think that all this amounts to a victory for Obama. True, it does leave him alive to fight another day, but what is he fighting for now? Obama found himself reduced to casting the Bush tax cut vote explicitly as a prerequisite for his own political survival. Rather than basking in triumph now, his power and prestige remain diminished and his party is fractured and in retreat while policy has moved to the right weeks before the Republicans even take over the House. Obama and the Democrats are not done by any means, and I more than half expect Reid to trot out the DREAM Act on Christmas Eve just to spite the American people yet again. With the tax cut deal done and omnipork done away with, the lame duckers have time on their hands and mischief on their minds. So now is no time to rest. But it’s also no time to go on about how Obama is such a genius for making the “sale.” He sold something that that awful, inarticulate cowboy Bush already sold first.
Politico is, at this point, just spinning past the Democrats’ political graveyard.
More: It’s Politico vs Politico.