A couple of days ago I said that President Obama said that the people failed to convince the Republicans to back down on their tax cut demands. I was misinformed. He said no such thing, at least not at the Tuesday press conference. I relied on a third hand report. I was wrong.
Unfortunately, I finally did watch the press conference. And this is my analysis of what happened.
As I said before, there are five tools in politics - morality, knowledge, public support, money, and fear.
President Obama appealed to morality repeatedly in the conference. It was, however, a weak appeal, as he admitted every time that he was doing the wrong thing (giving in to the rich) because he was threatened with a greater evil. He was even asked how he could be trusted to stand up against the Republicans the next time. In the next paragraphs I will explain how his answer was inadeequate.
He lost the tool of knowledge. As has been pointed out, in two years the unemployment extension will have expired and the tax cuts for both the middle class and the rich will be expiring. Therefore, the same hostage situation will occur, except that it will be an election year for him, not just other Democrats; in simpler terms, the Republican position will be stronger, not weaker. And everyone knows it. By denying that obvious fact the President has not only lost on knowledge, he has also undercut his claim to morality.
The President said several times that the people were on his side; but then he did not do what the people wanted. He lost on public support. True, the public's stance against the Republicans was likely unreliable, as it might well change when real people start losing their homes, but that is to lose faith in public support, and it is not a tool if you don't use it.
I've said that the President lost his claim to knowledge by making what can most politely be called a pollyanish claim that his position would be stronger in two years rather than weaker. This statement also fails in regard to the tool of money. Simply, the rich will take more money to use against us than we will get to survive with. In no more than a year this deal will do more harm than good. Economically, socially, and politically. This is a certainty. The President says that his bargaining position will improve, since the unemployment rate will go down. Refer again to knowledge - President Obama actually said that this deal will create jobs. This defies 30 years of hard facts. The Republicans' primary tool is money; giving them more is foolhardy.
The last tool is fear. President Obama said repeatedly that he made the deal because he was afraid of the consequences. In fairness he also said that congress should have fought on the issue before the election - and he was right. Fear won, but not by terrorizing the people; by terrorizing the President.
Uh... as I write this Thom Hartmann is reporting that the Democrats in Congress have refused to go along with the deal. If so, this is a double victory - The President takes the moral argument, and the Democrats as a party take the credit for standing up and doing the right thing, which is also what the people want. The Republicans will either back down or they will be exposed.
This changes everything. If the economy improves, the Democrats will get the credit for standing up, and if the economy fails then the Republican obstructionism will take the blame.