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After the Slaughter: Obama at Post-Midterm Election Press Conference

Obama Talks About Compromise and Bipartisanship on Issues With Republicans During Next Two Years

President Barack Obama walked up to the podium for a press conference yesterday where he discussed the slaughtering, or, as he put it, the “shellacking” of his Party at the polls in the midterm election. Visibly rigid and probably a bit hung over from the outcome, he attempted to take on a press who seemed to be in a competition to see who could get him to make the most concessions to Republicans before the press conference was over.

The conference opened with President Obama saying some political stuff presidents are obligated to say even if they believe it or not. He said he “looked forward to working with” Speaker of the House-elect Republican John Boehner and congratulated Rep. Nancy Pelosi on “extraordinary leadership over the past two years.” And, then he said, “Some election nights are more fun than others.”

It would be tough to argue with President Obama’s assessment of the outcome. He suggested that the results showed people were frustrated with the economic recovery, “want jobs faster,” “paychecks to go further,” and they want to be certain their children will have the opportunities they’ve had. They “want Washington to work for them, not against them.” They don’t want “tax money wasted.” They want to make sure their “voices aren’t being drowned out by sea of lobbyists and special interests and partisan bickering.” And, they want business done honestly and openly.

Yet, President Obama didn’t explain whether jobs could have come faster (more stimulus), whether steps could have been taken so paychecks could have been increased (the passage of a living wage measure), or what he might say had been a waste of tax money. If, in fact, the money had all been used wisely, now would have been the opportunity to debunk misconceptions so that the press would not continue to echo fears of government running amok with American taxpayer dollars.

Most frustrating to hear was President Obama say that his administration made progress but “clearly many Americans haven’t felt that yet.” He did not seem to be aware that Americans are largely ignorant of all that has been done because his Party and his Administration utilized poor communication and messaging throughout the election. A number of accomplishments, while small, could have been bragged about. And, boasting about what had been done might have drowned out the periodic tantrums of the Tea Party and its candidates funded by the Koch Brothers, Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, which made it possible for the GOP to win power on Election Day.

At this point, President Obama could have also singled out the many in the Democratic Party who ran against what he considered to be landmark health reform legislation, which he signed into law. He could have said that his Party needs to find its soul and figure out whether it can understand healthcare should be available to all Americans or not. But, he continued the pattern of ignoring realities within his Party that will only continue to plague the Democratic Party in future elections. Plus, he proved progressives have a veal pen they must stay in and corporate Democrats have carte blanche to say whatever they damn well please.

President Obama went on to indicate that the hallmark of the next two years would be seeking “common ground to make progress on some uncommonly difficult challenges.” He said later he was “not going to anticipate [Republicans are] not going to support anything.” As filmmaker Michael Moore said on Democracy Now! on the show’s Election Night coverage, “I don’t know how much you have to be battered and bruised to understand when the abuser is not going to stop abusing.”

The continued willingness to forgive and forget Republican obstructionism recklessly imperils this country. Even if the obstructionism can be regarded as something that is only preventing a Democratic Party from passing similar corporate solutions that do not really go far enough to fix problems, ignoring the GOP’s rejection of bipartisanship and cooperation is outright disingenuous to voters and the base that for some odd reason still supports him.

The issues President Obama he said would be possible to address with Republicans included: cutting the deficit, promoting a clean energy economy, making sure children have the best education in the world, ensuring investments are made in technology so America can maintain competitive edge in the global economy.

During the press conference, he refused to cut education, research and development funding, or investment in infrastructure. Americans should be wary of the fact that Social Security, Medicare, and other social safety net programs many depend on to survive may be compromised on as President Obama cedes power to Republicans and gives his Deficit Commission permission to recommend privatizing or doing away with some entitlement programs entirely.

Pushes toward clean energy will be compromised as President Obama grants power to natural gas and nuclear power interests at the expense of necessary investment in solar and wind initiatives for this country.

Education reform will take cues from documentaries like “Waiting for Superman” that make market-based suggestions to Americans to support more investment in charter schools and less power for teachers unions–suggestions that will further imperil the future of public education in America. (“Race to the Top” was a beginning and there will be more measures pitting states and students against one another for money so business can gain more influence in public schools.)

And, investments in research and development will go toward Silicon Valley and to executives in other industries, who will either pocket the money and use it to pad their salaries or they just might engineer new technology that can spur employment. Either way, this economics stimulus for businesses will likely be acceptable to a Tea Party whose useful idiots only deploy when corporate power or welfare is under attack.

A few more remarks from the conference stood out. President Obama said, “I don’t think there’s anybody in America who think that we’ve got an energy policy that works the way it needs to, that we shouldn’t be working on energy independence.” Depending on which definition of energy independence he was using, the executives of oil companies think America’s energy policy is working marvelously. It allows them to make huge profits and bring Planet Earth closer to complete ruin without consequences.

He revealed how he thought “folks” had seen “stuff” coming “fast and furious”–a recovery package, bank bailouts, auto company bailouts, etc–and “felt as if government was getting much more intrusive into people’s lives than they were accustomed to.” He said it was understandable that Americans said to themselves this was “the agenda” and not simply a response to an emergency.

President Obama’s response here, again, is terribly reckless and misguided. The only reason Americans were thinking like this at all was because of news organizations like Fox News, which promoted propaganda on the Obama Administration 24/7 all throughout the past two years. Without the conservative media echo chamber, nobody thinks government is turning “socialist,” “Marxist,” or violating people’s freedoms.

That Fox News has this power over the president and that President Obama would cower in the face of reporters and not debunk the propaganda that has been spread by press organizations like Fox News signals a dismal future for American democracy.

It was refreshing to hear President Obama admit that his Administration had been in such a hurry to get things done that they didn’t change how it was done. And, when pressed on the nature of how health reform was passed, it was good to see that he had a level of remorse for how that was handled. The deals with prescription drug companies and insurance companies were very disillusioning for people who thought he would change Washington and he acknowledged that fact. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that he made the deals and it’s hard to think deal wouldn’t be made if it was all done over again. The only way deals could have been entirely kept from the process was if the Administration had gone ahead and committed to instituting a Medicare for All system instead of putting a band-aid on the health care crisis in America.

Now, Americans face a government that will likely be gridlocked (but to a certain extent gridlock has been part of government since Obama took office). Or, they face an Administration that will make many, many concessions on issues that they know they should not concede on simply because they wish to uphold principles of bipartisanship and centrist politics.

That politics, which come from key Blue Dog and New Democrat Coalitions that sustained big defeats on Election Day, will not provide them the energy necessary to regain their “soul” as a Party. It will only turn the Party more corporate and more Republican. And, it will only mean more disillusioned Democrats, more progressives who may come to realize they support the idea of a Democratic Party but do not really support the Democratic Party as it exists in reality.

Gridlock may not be so bad if Americans take the next two years to collectively assess how broken this country happens to be and mobilize to ensure come 2012 the only grassroots force getting press is not the Tea Party. Because if the Tea Party represents the people’s anger then, whatever pain this country goes through now will be nothing compared to the aftermath of the 2012 Election.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."