ACRU

Ragin’ ‘n’ Stagin’ at the White House

ACRU Senior Fellow Ken Blackwell wrote this column appearing December 9, 2010, on Townhall.com.

Liberals (or Progressives, if you prefer) have been raging at President Obama. For months they have complained that he did not show enough passion. Comic atheist Bill Maher even got racial. He wanted Mr. Obama to shove a Glock into his belt and use it to pistol whip BP execs over the oil spill. If a conservative comedian had engaged in such a blatant bit of racial stereotyping as that, he’d have been hauled up before the Sensitivity Trainers. (And besides, BP had been one of Mr. Obama’s biggest corporate campaign donors.)

Imagine the Progs’ distress when the President used his bully pulpit to slap them around. His Tuesday remarks at the White House Press Room were angry and accusing.

Some people had the luxury of saying “no dealing with hostage takers,” he lectured. But he had to consider those hostages’ lives.

In short, Progs were posturing on the political stage while he was engaged in the serious and sober business of freeing the hostages.

Ragin’ ‘n’ Stagin’ at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue has sparked a rebellion. It’s by no means clear that President Obama will be able to whip his fractious factions into line.

The spreading revolt on Capitol Hill–among Progs who were spared the axe in November–is partly borne of their frustration. The American Idol they worshiped has been shown to have feet of clay. The man who made Newsweek Magazine gush, “We’re ALL Socialists Now,” has let them down.

With his agreement on taxes with those devil conservatives, Progs feel Mr. Obama has gone AWOL from the class war. Too bad for them.

But consider Mr. Obama’s rhetoric as he climbed down: He laid down verbal fire as he retreated. He compared the Republicans to hostage takers. They wanted to hold 98% of Americans hostage to their venal plans to succor the rich.

Could it be that Republicans simply wanted to hold off tax increases for all Americans? Could it be that the Republicans simply believe that in a stricken economy, it makes no sense to jack up the taxes on those most likely to hire the 9.8% of Mr. Obama’s fellow citizens who find themselves unstimulated, unrecovered, and unemployed?

Barack Obama came to Washington pledging to be the post-partisan President. He promised us a new day and a new way. In short order, however, he labeled the loyal opposition his “enemies.” Now, he sinks to this: he calls them hostage takers.

Compare this verbal flame-throwing with how President Obama coos to real hostage takers. He bowed to the Iranian custom of Nowruz and wished them a Happy New Year with words of sweet reason. Here’s how the White House website characterizes the President’s overture:

“But at this holiday we are reminded of the common humanity that binds us together,” he says…After committing his administration to a future of honest and respectful diplomacy, he continues on to address Iran’s leaders directly: “You, too, have a choice. The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations…”

He did everything for the Iranian New Year but pop the cork and toast them with champagne. On second thought, perhaps just as well. Maybe if the new House Majority would re-name itself the Republican Guards, Mr. Obama might extend to them some of that “honest and respectful” dialogue he promised to the real life hostage-takers of Tehran.

When President Roosevelt was being attacked in 1938 for a downturn in the country’s stricken economy, he taunted the Republicans of his day. The Republicans were charging a Roosevelt Recession. “There is a wise old adage I would offer to the Republican leadahs,” FDR said airily, “Never mention rope in the house of a man who has hanged himself!”

I give that good advice back to Mr. Obama. Given his administration’s weak record of dealing with real hostage takers, it would be best for him not to make invidious comparisons to his GOP opponents. For any hope of a future honest and respectful exchange to remain, it’s better for him not to call his fellow Americans hostage takers. Don’t mention rope.