OCTOBER 09,2013

President Obama must stand firm 

[The View From Washington]

 The Obama Administration Let Republicans Control Narrative

Since the Republican led House of Representatives shut down the government, polls show a continued shift in public sentiment away from Republicans and in favor of the President.

According to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll  Americans disapproval of the way Congressional Republicans are “handling negotiations over the federal budget” has jumped to 70% with a mere 24% approving of Congressional Republicans.

The disapproval rate of President Obama’s performance on the budget negotiations has narrowed, 51% to 45%. That’s a small improvement from the previous week’s 50% to 41% disapproval ratio.

The issue is not with the poll numbers.  If you are a member of the administration the numbers are trending in the right direction.

Their concern should be with the construct of the narrative by the corporate media. Programs such as Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and This Week are following the narrative articulated by Speaker Boehner and other Republicans: “Why won’t President Obama negotiate?”

Savannah Guthrie from Meet the Press asked Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, “Is the president ready to watch this country go into default rather than negotiate with Republicans?”

Later she tells Representative Fudge (D-OH), “As this goes on and on, the president’s stance is, ‘I won’t negotiate.’ And even if there’s a host of reasons why that is a responsible position, as a bumper sticker, it’s not the greatest, is it?”  Supporters of the administration’s position are allowing themselves to be brought into a debate based upon a false premise. The nature of Guthrie’s questions presumes that the Republican’s position has merit.

It does not.

George Stephanopoulos from This Week opened his round-table discussion by allowing his guest Paul Gigot to say, the President is playing with fire by failing to negotiate; as though the Republicans position is intellectually honest. Gigot went on to recount how many continuing resolutions (CR’s) have been negotiated by previous presidents; as though that history is relevant to the current circumstance.

It is not.

This time Republicans are holding the country hostage to reargue established law; the Affordable Care Act. Even Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has said, “We fought as hard as we could in a fair and honest manner and we lost…”

The hosts of these news programs and others may consider themselves to be unbiased journalists by allowing the Republican spokespeople and pundits to go unchallenged but they are really doing the public a great disservice.  Facts matter. The truth is important and should always be paramount.

The shutdown of the government is being led by a small band of elected officials who are more focused on their narrow political ideology than operating in the best interest of the American people.  According to The New York Times, “Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy.”

The result was the “blueprint to defunding Obamacare.” According to the Times “It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government.

This of course comes on the heels of the infamous January 20, 2009 dinner where according to Robert Draper’s book, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives” Republican leadership “met and plotted to sabotage, undermine and destroy America’s Economy.” The senior GOP members plotted to bring Congress to a standstill regardless how much it would hurt the American Economy by pledging to obstruct and block President Obama on all legislation.

Contrary to how John Boehner, Eric Cantor, et al, try to position the current shutdown we are exactly where they wanted us to be. It is not a noble gesture that the Republicans are championing on behalf of “the American people”.  This is, according to the Times, “the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010 — waged by a galaxy of conservative groups (such as the Koch Brothers) with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known.”

It is also the Republican Party playing to a bigoted ideologically driven element of their party, the White Southern Republican base.  According to The Nation “Many factors play into the shutdown, but a leading cause is the fact that the Republican Party is whiter, more Southern and more conservative than ever before.”  As a result of the 2012 census and restricting, “while the country continues to grow more racially diverse, the average Republican district continues to get even whiter.”

Contrary to Boehner’s mantra, Republicans are not listening to “the American people,” they are playing to the narrow structural base of the Republican party.

For mainstream American journalists to allow Republican representatives to justify their “negotiating” position as though it is valid perpetuates the lie.  For Democrats to participate in television and radio programs where the questions they are being asked are based upon faulty premises and they trying to answer the questions without highlighting their flaws is a formula for disaster.

It is also interesting how journalists, Democratic strategists, and Democratic members of Congress have adopted the Republican created pejorative term “ObamaCare.”  When you allow your enemy to define your position you’ve already lost the argument.

Not once have I heard Representative Fudge (D-OH) or other’s say, “no, it’s not ObamaCare; it’s the Affordable Care Act. (ACA)” Polls have shown many Americans oppose “ObamaCare” but support the ACA, demonstrating how effective Republican marketing has been and how the administration has failed to explain its flagship legislation.  He who defines reality controls others perception of reality.

Even though the polls are showing Americans disapprove of the way congressional Republicans are “handling negotiations over the federal budget” I believe the administration has lost control of the narrative, again. They can’t seem to construct a consistent and cohesive message. The ACA is not a takeover of health-care; it’s a change to health insurance which provides greater access to care for the previously uninsured.

In terms of corporate “mainstream” media, the administration has failed to get program hosts to focus on why Republicans are opposed to expanding healthcare to more Americans and are willing to shut down the government in order to prevent it.  Also, why should the President negotiate issues (ACA) that are unrelated to a clean CR?

By failing to force the narrative to address these issues, as the day’s pass and the country again get’s closer to the fiscal cliff, the winds of public sentiment may shift; forcing the administration to concede defeat when the battle, if properly fought, was already won.

Dr. Wilmer Leon, an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice is the Producer/ Host of the Sirius/XM Satellite radio channel 110 call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon” Go to or email: and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at  © 2013 InfoWave Communications, LLC 

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Poison Pill Politics l Charles Blow NYT


Poison Pill Politics

The deadline has passed. The sequester is in effect. And Congress is not in session.

Published: March 1, 2013

Damon Winter/The New York Times

Charles M. Blow

We now know that our political system is broken beyond anything even remotely resembling a functional government.

The ridiculous bill was designed as a poison pill, but Republicans popped it like a Pez. Now the body politic — weak with battle fatigue, jerked from crisis to crisis and struggling to recover from a recession — has to wait to see how severe the damage will be.

(The director of the Congressional Budget Office estimatesthat the sequester could cost 750,000 jobs in 2013 alone.)

This is all because Republicans have refused to even consider new revenue as part of a deal. That includes revenue from closing tax loopholes, a move they supposedly support.

As Speaker John Boehner said after his Congressional leaders met with President Obama on Friday:

“Let’s make it clear that the president got his tax hikes on Jan. 1. This discussion about revenue, in my view, is over.”

Boehner’s intransigence during the talks drew “cheers,” according to a report in The New York Times, from his chronically intransigent colleagues. But their position is a twist of the truth that is coming dangerously close to becoming accepted wisdom by sheer volume of repetition. It must be battled back every time it is uttered.

Let’s make this clear: it is wrong to characterize the American Taxpayer Relief Act as a “tax hike.” In reality, much of what it did was allow 18 percent of the Bush tax cuts — mostly those affecting the wealthiest Americans — to expire while permanently locking in a whopping 82 percent of them.

But of course, that misrepresentation fit with the tired trope of Democrats as tax-and-spend liberals. It also completely ignores that it was Bush-era spending that dug the ditch we’re in.

Republicans have defined their position, regardless of how reckless: austerity or bust. However, as economists have warned, austerity generally precedes — and, in fact, can cause — bust. Just look at Europe.

But Republicans are so dizzy over the deficits and delighted to lick the boots of billionaires that they cannot — or will not — see it. They are still trying to sell cut-to-grow snake oil: cut spending and cut taxes, and the economy will grow because rich people will be happy, and when rich people are happy they hire poor people, and then everyone’s happy.

This is the vacuous talk of politicians trying to placate people with vacation homes, not a sensible solution for people trying to purchase, or simply retain, their first homes.

Now the president is trying to make the best of a bad situation and bring expectations in line with what is likely to happen.

When Gallup this week asked Americans to use one word to describe the sequester, negative words outnumbered good words four to one. The top three negative words or phrases were “bad,” “disaster” and “God help us.”

At a news conference after Friday’s meeting with Congressional leaders, the president tried to tamp down some of the most dire predictions about the sequester’s impact. He said:

“What’s important to understand is that not everyone will feel the pain of these cuts right away. The pain, though, will be real.”

The president knows well that if the sequester’s effects are so diffused that the public — whose attention span is as narrow as a cat’s hair — doesn’t connect them to their source, people might think the administration cried wolf.

That’s why he said, and will most likely continue to say for months, “So every time that we get a piece of economic news over the next month, next two months, next six months, as long as the sequester’s in place we’ll know that that economic news could have been better if Congress had not failed to act.”

He must yoke this pain to the people who invited it. It’s not as though most Americans don’t already think poorly of Republicans anyway.

Pew Research Center report released this week found that most Americans think the Republican Party, unlike the Democratic Party, is out of touch with the American people and too extreme. And most Americans did not see Republicans as open to change or looking out for the country’s future as much as Democrats.

The president said Friday that “there is a caucus of common sense up on Capitol Hill” that includes Congressional Republicans who “privately at least” were willing to close loopholes to prevent the sequester.

Those privately reasonable Republicans might want to be more public before their party goes over another cliff and takes the country with them.

I invite you to join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on March 2, 2013, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Poison Pill Politics.
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