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Obama’s Tipping Point

I have been saying for a long time now that President Obama is the world’s worst negotiator and has absolutely no interest in fighting for progressive principles. I didn’t make this up out of the whole cloth. I voted for the guy and I desperately wanted him to succeed. But my job is to cover politics and when you cover Obama all you see is him running for cover.

Let me give you a small example nobody talks about, but I think is telling. After Gabby Giffords was shot, his administration indicated that he would do a major speech on gun control … later. I told my audience that was not going to happen. Why? Because I know Obama. He hates, hates, hates conflict. And he would never take on an issue where he did not have overwhelming support. It’s not in his nature.

Of course, there was no major speech. Instead there was a small op-ed buried in a local Arizona paper (a lot of times they write op-eds when they don’t want any video out there that can be used in campaign commercials or repeated on the evening news that night). But that wasn’t even the telling part. There were about half a dozen issues he could have addressed on gun control. The major one after the shooting was how many bullets a magazine could hold. Would he address that? Of course, not!

It turned out that he advocated for every position that polled over 67%. But, alas, the magazine issue only polled at 51% — not good enough for Obama. He has the majority of Americans behind him, this was the major issue being discussed at the time and he has an incredible moment to tell this story — and he left it out of the editorial. It’s hard to imagine a politician more timid. It’s almost as if he is trying to be the exact opposite of Bush — all brains, no guts.

These days many are also wondering about the brains part. Has he not been paying attention to Republicans at all? Is he awake? Could any sentient person actually believe they were going to compromise this time around, let alone the next time? He was out there this morning talking about how he is looking forward to compromising with Republicans again over the Super Committee.

Unfortunately, that is the only guiding principle Obama has — compromise. But that is no principle at all. What if I wanted to sell you a car for $10,000 and you offered me $1? Would compromise dictate that I sell it to you for $5,000? For $2? What if the car is really worth about $10,000, should I compromise anyway? Compromise is a tactic, it’s not a principle. It doesn’t give you the right answer. It is sometimes necessary, but offers no guidance in what should be the final outcome.

Can anyone name Obama’s principles? Something he will not bend on? A progressive priority he will defend to the end?

Does Obama even think of himself as a progressive? He once pointed to a glass half-filled with water and told Sen. Bernie Sanders, “That’s the problem with you progressives. You see this as half-empty.” You progressives?

But does anyone think that the guy who hired Tim Geithner, Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers, William Daley, Peter Orszag, Ben Bernanke, etc. is remotely progressive? If you looked throughout the whole country, could you find more conservative, establishment Democrats? Barely, if at all. And, of course, some of those guys aren’t even Democrats.

But finally, it isn’t just us on the “professional left” pointing this out. After yet another unconditional surrender in the debt ceiling talks, he’s hit his tipping point. Just go talk to any group of liberals in the country and see if half of them aren’t incredibly pissed off at him. I do it all the time and their whispers of discontent has grown into a cacophony.

Finally, nearly every progressive commentator is talking about his profound weakness, if it even is that and not something worse (some have started to question whether he even wants to win on progressive issues or if he is fundamentally conservative).

Now, the Obama supporters won’t believe this either. They’ll blame the messenger as usual. But go ahead, ignore this message at your peril. Apparently, the people at the White House think they’re such geniuses. “Did you know it turns out centrists decide elections?” This is the kind of politics you learn in third grade and they think they’re playing three dimensional chess. Yes, independents are important, but they hate weakness in their leaders. Giving the Republicans everything they want every single time doesn’t appeal to any independents and will lead to half of your own voters staying at home.

How did he not see that the Republicans would bludgeon him with the lack of jobs after he agreed to their spending cuts — which would only lower the number of jobs in the country? How could anyone not see that and think they know anything about politics?

A young woman I talked to at the airport last week said that she will not vote in the next election. I hate to hear that. I think if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain the next time around. You have voluntarily ceded your voice in this democracy. I told her that and she said, “After Obama, what is there left to hope for?”

If the clever guys at the White House don’t realize they’ve hit their tipping point, they’re in for a rude awakening when that tsunami washes over them. They’re headed into the 30s in the polls and I don’t think they have any clue how to get out of there. They don’t even know that they’re about to hit an iceberg. They think they’re just one more compromise from turning the corner.

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Cenk Uygur

Cenk Uygur