Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 17, 2010

ELECTION DRAWS CLOSER, OBAMA UPS THE RHETORICAL ANTE.... For the past couple of weeks, most Democrats and many on the left have been outraged by Republicans' willingness to block extended aid to the unemployed, while simultaneously pushing for massive tax cuts for the wealthy. Today, President Obama expressed that same indignation in his weekly address.

In general, these weekly messages from the president aren't especially acerbic, but as the election season intensifies, and Obama's patience for GOP tactics wears thin, I suspect we'll see the president throwing more elbows the way he did today.

In this address, Obama noted struggling businesses and workers looking for relief. "For months," the president said, "that's what we've been trying to do. But too often, the Republican leadership in the United States Senate chooses to filibuster our recovery and obstruct our progress. And that has very real consequences." After noting some of the steps Democrats want to take to help small businesses, Obama added, "[A]gain and again, a partisan minority in the Senate said 'no,' and used procedural tactics to block a simple, up-or-down vote."

To hear the president explain it, the GOP doesn't even get the basics right: "Some Republican leaders actually treat this unemployment insurance as if it's a form of welfare. They say it discourages folks from looking for work. Well, I've met a lot of folks looking for work these past few years, and I can tell you, I haven't met any Americans who would rather have an unemployment check than a meaningful job that lets you provide for your family. And we all have friends, neighbors, or family members who already knows how hard it is to land a job when five workers are competing for every opening.

"Now in the past, Presidents and Congresses of both parties have treated unemployment insurance for what it is -- an emergency expenditure. That's because an economic disaster can devastate families and communities just as surely as a flood or tornado.

"Suddenly, Republican leaders want to change that. They say we shouldn't provide unemployment insurance because it costs money. So after years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit, including a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, they've finally decided to make their stand on the backs of the unemployed. They've got no problem spending money on tax breaks for folks at the top who don't need them and didn't even ask for them; but they object to helping folks laid off in this recession who really do need help."

Obama went on to explain the stimulative nature of extended unemployment benefits -- a detail the GOP usually forgets -- and urged lawmakers not to "go back to the same misguided policies that led us into this mess."

In the larger context, the president is really just asking for the bare minimum here -- aid for the jobless and loans for small businesses. What I'd really like to see is the White House craft an ambitious jobs/stimulus bill with a demand that Congress vote on it before wrapping up for the year. Give Democrats something to fight for, and the base something to get excited about.

That said, Obama's clearly right to demand that Congress at least tackle jobless aid and small businesses loans -- and soon. Just as importantly, it's heartening to hear the president call Republicans out with more partisan rhetoric than we're accustomed to.

More of this, please.

Steve Benen 11:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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Benen: ...it's heartening to hear the president call Republicans out with more partisan rhetoric...

He said the same thing a month ago; guess it didn't fit the echo chamber theme of the week.

Obama Weekly Address: President Slams Republicans For Blocking Progress in Congress

Posted by: cr on July 17, 2010 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

I guess the President knows what he is doing, but from my perspective it seems to me that offering an ambitious stimulus/jobs bill and demanding Congress give it an up or down vote would be a political winner, even if the Republicans tried to prevent it from happening.

Posted by: Andrew on July 17, 2010 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

-too much nuance; soars over the heads of the Electorate, and evaporates into the ether.

He SHOULD have said: "The Republicans, like Marie Antoinette, say to the unemployed 'Let them eat cake'. In case you have forgotten your history, the populace then rose up and cut off her head. Perhaps history will repeat itself. . ."

Betcha THAT would go viral!

Posted by: DAY on July 17, 2010 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

More of this, yes, but would it be too much to ask that it be in a more visible venue than the Saturday message that only political wonks even realize happens?

Posted by: biggerbox on July 17, 2010 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Good for Obama, and this shows it isn't true that he just won't speak out or jab elbows etc. (I'm talking talk now, not Congress.) I wish he'd give more press conferences. But REM that altho there is room for criticism a lot of Obama's supposed shortcomings are appearances contrived by Lamestream media wankery. (Note the irony, that phrase from cons like Rush happens to be true!)

Posted by: Neil B on July 17, 2010 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

I am sure President McCain will be on 2 or three of the morning shows tomorrow to tell us that Republicans aren't visiting pain on their fellow citizens by their obstructive tactics. Over to you David.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 17, 2010 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

The election is four months away. The situation on Capitol Hill has been allowed to develop to crystal clarity (In the midst of a recession, the GOP will not EVEN allow unemployment benefits to be extended). The average Dem activist has been well educated about GOP obstructionism and can cite examples in detail all day long. (Thanks to people like Steve Benen!) This is not a hard message for many people to hear since they tend to like Obama and dislike GOP congressional leaders, like John Boehner.

Four months is plenty of time to communicate this simple message. "All of our hopes for Obama are being blocked by the GOP in Congress: If you want Obama to succeed, you have to vote Democratic for Congress and Senate in November 2010."

Posted by: tom in ma on July 17, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

More and more and more of this! Enough with their crap.

Posted by: impik on July 17, 2010 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Barn here; horse there.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on July 17, 2010 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

More of this, please.

Ads, ads, ads. Every night, please. Get the word out there that it is Republicans who cater to Big Banks, support tax cuts for the rich, think the unemployed are lazy bums, want to eliminate medicare, social security and so on." Over and over, over and over.

One thing the Republicans have shown us is that claiming something over and over will affect the discourse downstream. Republicans tell lies. Let us be bold in telling the truth.

Posted by: PTate in MN on July 17, 2010 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

The President needs to keep HAMMERING on this. The GOP has already ginned up their summer talking points. Out here in Washington (state) we have a commercial hitting Patty Murray about walking on the backs of small businesses...voting for 'taxes on small businesses'...oh F* me. This woman has been a one woman FORCE to bring (and keep) business in the state. The ad is paid for by Karl Rove's new firm. GET OUT OF MY STATE.

Posted by: SYSPROG on July 17, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Well sure, what he says is great. But what about what he does?
Check out this report/view of the wrist tap the high end criminals receive.

I hope for real change. Don't see it. F' my eyes they must be lying.

Posted by: reduced on July 17, 2010 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

"the Republican leadership in the United States Senate chooses to filibuster our recovery"

'They want to filibuster the recovery' is the phrase Obama should use right until the elections. In fact, filibuster should be like every 5th word out of his mouth.

['Let them have it.']

Posted by: max on July 17, 2010 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

"Now in the past, Presidents and Congresses of both parties have treated unemployment insurance for what it is -- an emergency expenditure. That's because an economic disaster can devastate families and communities just as surely as a flood or tornado."

If summer storms bring devastating floods to Kentucky or South Carolina or summer heat brings massive crop damage in Kansas or Nebraska, will our deficit conscious Senators fight against disaster aid because the will be a deficit increase? I doubt it. They are shameless and worthless.

Posted by: meander on July 17, 2010 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

I'm of the opinion that 24/7-365 political campaigning is a huge mistake, and it's best to save your best material until the election approaches. Yes, full-time campaigning does help establish a baseline from which general political debate stems, but...people just start tuning it out.

For example, if Republicans had played nice this whole time and just NOW started to get upset, it'd get people's attention. But they criticized him before the election (without effect), gave the same criticism throughout his presidency (with little effect), and will continue the same old criticism into this next election. And the net effect is that people just don't care anymore. If you already hated Obama, you still hate him. And for as much as he's lost anyone, it's because he hasn't done ENOUGH; while Republican attacks get wasted in an echo chamber.

Meanwhile, Obama is slowly ramping up his campaigning, and when he says this stuff, it'll mean something to people. Will wingnuts start listening? Of course not. But the majority of voters simply haven't been paying attention and will CONTINUE to not pay attention until a month or two before the election. That's what always happens.

And Obama is poised to get their ear, because he didn't become background noise; while Republicans will once again look like the boy who cried "socialist!"

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on July 17, 2010 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody hear Mitch Mcconnell on NPR? He says the only reason we don't already have an extension of unemployment benefits is that the Dems refuse to provide one that doesn't enlarge the deficit. He didn't say how exactly he expected them to do that.

Posted by: sceptic on July 17, 2010 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK
Obama went on to explain the stimulative nature of extended unemployment benefits -- a detail the GOP usually forgets -- and urged lawmakers not to "go back to the same misguided policies that led us into this mess."

They don't forget it, they actively deny it. Look at any discussion on conservative media outlets, or the comments on any news article, and you'll find wingnuts shrieking that isn't it insane that Pelosi or Obama said that unemployment benefits are an economic stimulus.

I honestly don't know how to deal with people who are absolutely convinced that they're right despite decades of their own side believing the opposite, and who just sit back and laugh at anyone who dares to disagree. The only solution is to vote even more of them out, and unfortunately their tactic of giving out goodies while trashing the economy and the government and leaving it for Democrats to clean up may have hit a new level with a mess that can't be cleaned up in four years.

Posted by: Redshift on July 17, 2010 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Who is this 'Obama' I keep hearing about?

Does anyone pay attention to what he says?

This is the man that also says that "the Government must tighten its belt".

Posted by: PowerOfX on July 17, 2010 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, a lot of non-activist, regular voters don't have a clue as to how conservatives and Republicans are screwing them over and blaming it all on Obama and Democrats! People only know they're still struggling with economic issues and automatically believe it is because Obama and the Democrats "haven't done anything." There is a disconnect between what the Democrats have been trying to do and what they've actually accomplished on the one hand, and what people perceive on the other. Does anyone in the entire Washington Democrat universe grasp that this is spelling big trouble for the mid-terms?!

Posted by: Varecia on July 17, 2010 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

All of our hopes for Obama are being blocked by the GOP in Congress

If that's the message then Dems are doomed. You mean "Hopes for American recovery."

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on July 17, 2010 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

The lines being drawn are over "giving" money to the poor and unemployed, versus huge tax breaks and other obscene giveaways to those who have more of their own money.

The discussion Obama needs to kindle has to do with nitty gritty stuff like a living wage, what a person's labor is worth.

Think about it.... How much money is it worth paying for an hour of human labor?

How do you define a living wage when the minimum wage is something less?

How long does unemployment insurance last?

Seems to me we need a more cooperative type of unemployment insurance (and auto, health house, life,....)

Cooperation versus Coercion as Methods of Social Change.

There are those who understand cooperative government, but when we privatize we risk substandard services.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on July 17, 2010 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

meander: If summer storms bring devastating floods to Kentucky or South Carolina or summer heat brings massive crop damage in Kansas or Nebraska, will our deficit conscious Senators fight against disaster aid because the will be a deficit increase? I doubt it.

Don't forget the Tennessee rains and federal efforts in the Gulf Oil Spill.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on July 17, 2010 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

Now that Finreg is passed, there is no danger of retaliation in this cycle. People want to know that you are still fighting. Try to reintroduce unemployment benefits extension, and make them vote it down. The President should absolutely start smacking these people all over the place. People like a fighter with good one-liners.

Posted by: Lee A. Arnold on July 17, 2010 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

The secessionist Republicans are at it again. While not passing anti-U.S. Constitution Arizona immigration laws (like something straight out of the southern secessionist 1860s), they are busy obstructing, obstructing, obstructing, trying every trick possible to defend corporate slave-owners.

This is what corporate-owned Republicans have in mind for America. This is what secessionist Republicans, especially those in the Tea Party, would establish if they were able to secede and set-up a separate country, ruled for the corporate elites (less than 10 percent) with the rest (over 90 percent) being wholly-owned subsidiaries of the corporate elites, living in poverty, no social safety net, often with no hope of upward mobility. I think this is what is called a Banana Republic...or what I call The Republican Vision for America.

For over thirty years, the secessionist Republicans have been working hard within our democracy to rig it in their favor and only their favor. Besides the MSM and talk radio being rigged in their favor (after Republicans spent a whole lot of money buying up MSM companies and talk radio stations), they also sought to rig the actual election process in their favor, and once electronic voting machines arose they saw their chance.

Which makes we wonder. Since January of 2007 when Democrats gained control of Congress, but especially after President Obama was sworn-in as president in Januray 2009, why hasn't the Democratic Party launched full-scale investigations into the often Republican-owned, Republican-leaning electronic voting machine companies?

No paper trail. No way to verify that one's vote was counted properly. What's the reason for the delay by Democratic Party leaders now that they have the tools at hand, like DOJ and congressional subpoena power? Is this the reason that secessionist Republicans sound so cocky about their "chances" in November at gaining back control of Congress, and all the horror that that would entail for our country? The vote rigging is on? The electronic tweaking of vote totals to favor Republican candidates is in place? The election is in the bag?

Let's all pray that this isn't so, that Republicans are honest with integrity beyond reproach, that they are patriotic American citizens who would never betray the trust of our nation's voters, that, that,...yeah, right.

Posted by: The Oracle on July 17, 2010 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans made it clear early on they wanted President Obama to fail. They are betraying the country while trying to create this disconnect between what are the facts and what they hope to present to get contol of the country. And, desperate to be elected, Republicans are virtually silent on the racial rhetoric coming out of their campaign headquarters of Fox News.
Are voters smarter than a 5th grader?

The news media is not helping to expose the race baiting and false statements of Fox News, and the Republicans who go on Fox and create deception through lies on almost every topic.
Even CNN is getting outrageous.

The news media is faltering, as evidenced by the show CNN's Howie Kurtz had recently, as he wondered if Limbaugh made sense when he said
what we all know were disparaging remarks and racially charged statements about our president.

Media Matters summarized this well:

"Howard Kurtz, hosting Reliable Sources on CNN, played snippets of Rush Limbaugh's show when the AM talker claimed that if Obama were white he'd be working as a tour guide in Hawaii, not sitting in the Oval Office.

Incredibly, after airing the offensive comments, Kurtz asked whether the right-wing talker hadn't made some sensible points. Thankfully Kurtz's guest, Politico columnist Roger Simon, swiftly labeled the comments for what they were: "racist and repugnant."

When are Fox News lies, Republican lies, ridiculous lying statments by Michelle Bachmann that there have never been racial overtones at tea parties not even challenged, and CNN being outrageous saying Limbaugh made sense--when will all of this become the front page news story?

Posted by: cable tv and printed news omit the real story on July 18, 2010 at 3:36 AM | PERMALINK

I think it's kinda funny how the media is falling all over themselves in a rush to delcare that this fall's election is going to be another GOP wave when the Democrats for the most part haven't even started campaigning yet.

By virtue of being in the minority, the GOP has pretty much had 18 months to take free pot shots at the Democratic Party, which has been too busy trying to actually govern to fight back.

But everybody knows that voters do not really start paying attention until after Labor Day. My guess is that GOP polling numbers are at their high points right now, and will probably drop 5-10 percent across the board once the Democrats start counterattacking in the fall.

In a time of economic misery when everybody is pissed at Wall St., the fact that the GOP opposed banking reform and the extension of unemployment benefits will make very potent campaign issues for the Democrats in the fall.

Posted by: mfw13 on July 18, 2010 at 5:31 AM | PERMALINK

An earlier comment here suggested the Dems use ads. I agree. The idea is to implant the meme early, before the other side starts putting out ads, too. When the public is overwhelmed with the electioneering sound bites, the ads will have limited effect. Do it NOW!

Posted by: candideinnc on July 18, 2010 at 6:30 AM | PERMALINK

"Now in the past, Presidents and Congresses of both parties have treated unemployment insurance for what it is -- an emergency expenditure.

They both also treated war supplementals as "emergency expenditures" too--something that Candidate Obama said he would not continue, but does--which most certainly treating it as something it was not. Yet, they always passed with nary a whimper.

"Emergency" war funding? No problem.

Funding to help the jobless? To stimulate the economy with enough funding? Not so much.

Posted by: terraformer on July 18, 2010 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Talk is cheap. If Dems and especially Obama really want to pass really meaningful legislation, then constantly advocate/work to break the Senate filibuster. It can be done at any time with 50 votes plus Biden, screeds to the contrary notwithstanding.It's not a Constitutional or judicial issue. It's a Senate rule originally passed over 100 years ago by a then- normal-majority of Senators to bind future Senate sessions to a super-majority. Senate rules don't have to be changed at the beginning of a session.

It's hard to see how continued Democratic majorities in Congress will make any real difference unless they change their policies and break the filibuster. Who knows what could have passed in the way of real health care reform, adequate stimulus package, adequate financial regulation, whatever. It was never really tried or strongly and consistently advocated by Obama.

"Not very good, but better than GWB and the Republicans" is hardly a rousing political rallying cry Most of what Progressive's want today would have been supported by Nixon, Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ, Ford, FDR, TR, Truman-- Hell, even Dewey. So don't give me BS about advocating left-wing Socialist policies.

As noted by Digby: "The party in power is expected to do what's necessary to pass its agenda. If it can't, it is held responsible for the failure, not those who stopped them from doing it. This is particularly true in the present circumstance. The president blaming a "do nothing congress" only works when the congressional majority is of the opposition party. When it's your own party [AND you have a near-supermajority], you just look like a weak leader and people think the underdog Republicans are simply "playing the game" better and so deserve to "win."

It's not completely irrational that semi-informed voters detect such weakness and vote for leaders that stick to what would be otherwise-unpopular political positions.

Posted by: gdb on July 18, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

This message should be on national television and preempt FOX programming.

Posted by: Trollop on July 18, 2010 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK



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