“You know, you never want to say, ‘It’s all them,’” President Obama told Barbara Walters last week, “But I do think that right now at least, in the Republican Party there are a couple of notions. Number one is that compromise is a dirty word. Number two, anything that Obama’s for, we’re against.”
Come on, Mr. President, what is this “you never want to say it’s all them” crap? You’re acting like you’re taking your political strategy from Dr. Phil‘s relationship advice. Maybe you should watch The Fighter instead. Study Mark Wahlberg. Listen to the disturbed recovering addict played by Christian Bale. Lose touch with your Venusian side, Mr. President. Get ready to rumble.
At some point in the next few months, Mr. President, you’ve got to stop the sulky griping about the Republicans in Congress. Really, the only way it could get worse if you shrugged at the end and sniffed “Just saying.” You need to work up something resembling a full-throated Harry S Truman battle cry (“”I don’t give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it’s Hell.”) Because here’s the thing: you’ve been a pretty good president. When you’ve been left alone to act unilaterally, you’ve shattered Al Qaeda into a shattered shell, brought Osama bin Laden American justice, and backed a controversial plan that ousted Gaddafi without losing a single American life.
It’s when you’ve had to act with Congress, and most particularly, the Republican-controlled House, that you can’t get anything done. Worse, they humiliate you, and when their recalcitrance causes trouble, like damaging the credit rating and the economy, you’re the one who suffers the blame. So it is all on them, Mr. President, and if you’ve got to go all Buford Pusser on them, then fine: make it clear to them with a two by four.
This shouldn’t be a tough one, Mr. President. It’s not like you’re being sent to Canada to clobber baby seals. This is the Republican Congress whose approval rating has dropped from 29% at the start of the year to 11% today. According to the Washington Post, this makes Congress less popular than polygamy, Paris Hilton, caning, and BP’s handling of the Gulf oil spill.
It’s your John Wayne moment, Mr. President. The traditional American hero is slow to anger; well, Mr. President, you’ve got that part down. Now you need to work on the part where you punch the bully in the nose. The American people need to see you that you believe in what you stand for. They want to see that you have the courage of your convictions. Remember what John Wayne said? “If everything isn’t black and white, I say, ‘Why the hell not?” Simplify things for the voters, Mr. President. Make it clear that the only thing standing between the country and the path to recovery is John Boehner and Eric Cantor and a band of irresponsible, self-indulgent hard-liners.
But here’s the thing. Not only do you need to fight, Mr. President–that’s really the easy part–you need to take the fight to them. They’re going to want to make the election a referendum on your administration; you need to make it a referendum on theirs. It won’t do for you to age a tactical campaign and win the election by waiting for whoever your rival turns out to be to reveal his manifest limitations. That kind of campaign carries the risk of a Republican majority returning to the House, and that’s just not god enough. The country cannot continue to endure the stagnation of the last months. You need to come out fighting, Mr. President, and challenge the American people to not only re-elect you, but to give you a Congress that is willing to work on your agenda of reform and revitalization. Sure, it’s a risky strategy, Mr. President. Given how many voters are legitimately dubious about the big-government propensities of a Democratic Congress, you might be better leaving every man for himself. But we can no longer afford the status quo. We have long ago left the waters of divided government. We’re even beyond divided non-government. We’re sitting in divided entropy, headed for divided collapse.
Once and for all, Mr. President, it is all them. Get up and say it. And put some muscle behind it.