Ten Miles Square


December 23, 2011 8:25 AM Give ‘Em Hell, Barry

By Jamie Malanowski

“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.

[Cross-posted at JamieMalanowski.com]

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Jamie Malanowski is a writer and editor. He has been an editor at Time, Esquire and most recently Playboy, where he was Managing Editor.


  • Wyatt on December 24, 2011 9:50 AM:

    "shattered Al Qaeda into a shattered shell"
    "It wonít do for you to age a tactical campaign"
    "and thatís just not god enough."
    C'mon, editors... where are you guys?

  • Ned on December 24, 2011 10:26 AM:

    As much as I agree with you, there are forces within Obama which will mitigate his tendency toward anger:

    1. He's a Christian (sorry, all you Kenyan Muslim believers), with "turn the other cheek" a paralyzing belief;
    2. In his formative years he was an outsider - black man in white world; American in Indonesia - and anger was not a helpful response to tough situations;
    3. As a smart man, his intellect is his fallback position under stress, not anger.

    That said, he wants a second term, and your article clearly states the case for a Truman-esque response.

  • Dennis on December 24, 2011 2:09 PM:

  • Gwen Killerby on December 24, 2011 4:19 PM:

    Easy for you to say, mr. Blogger. Not that you don't speak truth. But Obama is scared to death to invoke Angry Black Man Syndrome, which will send Independents screaming to Romney, who they view as "moderate" (which is stupid, cos he wants a return to Bush, as Biden noted this week)

    FoKKKs will immediately launch an attack along the lines of "See? We told you so: He IS an Angry Black Man" which they will double down on by saying "angry like MLK" instead of "angry like Malcom X". At that point they have us, cos we will get indignant about Martin Luther King, at which point they wil say " there is no difference between the two" with all the racist overtones and undertones without outright saying that "all blacks look alike". And there will be a lot of meaningful silences and stares.

    So, if you know of a way to make Obama put his foot down WITHOUT sounding like an "Angry Black Man", please share.
    Don't get me wrong. Black men, along with rest of the 99 percent have EVERY REASON to be angry, it's just that such a stance will lose us the election.

  • Anonymous on December 24, 2011 4:19 PM:

    Like it or not, the economy still sucks and Obama is the one who's been in charge. So if the election is fought over the economy, the next president will be whichever moron, liar or loon the Republicans ultimately nominate.

    Every time the Rebublicans criticize an Obama policy, Obama's surrogates need to be out there demanding to know what they would do differently -- and demand specifics.

    Romney was whining last week that Obama hadn't overthrown the Iranian government yet. So Jay Carney should have been DEMANDING to know what President Romney would do differently from the previous FIVE presidents, and asking if Romney seriously thought that the American people wanted, just as the Iraq war was winding down, to get into another Middle East war -- this time with a country with twice the population as Iraq (snidely asking if Romney is aware of this) and a larger military.

    The Ryan budget is a perfect example of what happens when Republicans get specific. Most Americans are turned off by Republican priorities.

    And Obama needs to position himself as the champion of the middle class, declaring that he is fighting for "Main Street, not Wall Street", even if that' only partially true.

  • George on December 25, 2011 1:07 AM:

    Worry about what Faux News might say is part of what got us into this mess to begin with.
    Go for it, President Obama.

  • Fred Beloit on December 25, 2011 9:32 AM:

    Yeah, give 'em hell, Barry:
    "Yay, yay, hooray for Obama and the Senate. They have allowed us to avoid making some portion, who can figure out how much, of the payments into our retirement plan[Social Security] for two months. The House wanted it for a year but we fooled them. Hahaha. We fooled them, we fooled them because we got two months instead of a year. Yippy. But Obama is brilliant. He is now going to work to extend this cheating of ourselves to one entire year. Yeah, baby, we fooled them.

    Also posted at Pundit Press blog December 25, 2011 9:21 AM

  • TR on December 26, 2011 8:26 AM:

    Pretty good president

    At what?
    Screwing up the economy?
    Blaming everything on Bush or racism?

    Besides making the obvious call at letting others get Osama bin Laden, what POSITIVE accomplishments have you made?

  • zandru on December 26, 2011 4:59 PM:

    Man, what a pointless load of negativity! What's the matter, did you get lumps of coal in your stockings this year?

    If you're not totally happy with what the President and Democrats have achieved this year - and frankly, who is? - perhaps you should start planning what you, personally, will do in 2012 to make things better.

    Help a campaign to "primary" a Blue Dawg? Help a Democratic campaign for a "good" Democrat? Write op-eds for your local paper? Set up an "action" blog or Facebook page? Become a lobbyist at your local legislature? Resolve to communicate weekly with your Congressional representatives?

    You may note that several of these options can be done from home, banging on your keyboard with your cheeto-stained hands. It's potentially as easy as sitting around griping that the pony hasn't yet arrived!

  • judge patton on December 30, 2011 8:55 PM:

    i guess i was hoping the thing was think of as "american justice" would involve more courts, judges and juries and less bombs and dumping bodies into oceans, but maybe that's just me....