Obama’s Hope-a-Dope Strategy

Mother Jones

Progressives are furious that Obama, yet again, pulled his punches. The White House says it’s all part of the master plan.

You may remember the moment when Barack Obama declared war on the Republican game plan—or so it seemed. Five days after negotiating a budget-cutting deal that averted a government shutdown in April, Obama gave a speech at George Washington University, slamming the GOP over the slash-and-burn budget proposal of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Republicans, he declared, were pushing a “deeply pessimistic” vision of America’s future: “This is a vision that says even though Americans can’t afford to invest in education at current levels or clean energy, even though we can’t afford to maintain our commitment on Medicare and Medicaid, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy.” Such a vision, Obama vowed, would not prevail “as long as I’m president.”

Fighting words—and liberals were elated.  Jonathan Chait of The New Republic cheered, “He beat Ryan and the Republicans to a bloody pulp.…He expressed moral outrage in a way I’ve never heard him do before, and in a way I didn’t think he was capable of.”

Then came…nothing.  Or not much.  And this week, Obama cut a controversial deal with hostage-taking tea party Republicans, who insisted on severe spending cuts before they would consent to the previously routine action of raising the debt ceiling.

Rather than waging a titanic battle against Republicans after Obama delivered that passionate speech, the White House hunkered down with Republican leaders to try to cobble together a deficit deal to prevent the extreme GOPers from pushing the nation into default. What happened to the pulpification? “We moved to the negotiations process,” a senior White House aide explained. “It was up to others to push this piece of it.” After the equivalent of Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day speech, it was back to the grind.

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