President Obama fired the opening salvo of the looming budget battle yesterday at a nationally televised press conference. There are a couple stark points to be made, right off the bat:
- In direct contrast to the "government is the problem" mantra that has been repeated ad nauseum by movement conservatives ever since their prune-headed Saint Ronald said it nearly 30 years ago, President Obama boldly asserted in his opening remarks that "...the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back to life."
- Not once did Obama mention "terrorism," "terror," nor, indeed, the meaningless and hyperbolic "Global War on Terror" that the previous administration used as a bludgeon to browbeat the American public into going along with its constitutional abuses.
Another possibility that is becoming ever more likely, is that this budget battle is going to be fought entirely within the Democratic party. The Republicans, having already shown their hand with excessive use of the filibuster, and by forcing their House caucus to hold the line down to the last and least in the vote on the stimulus earlier this year, can now be ignored by the administration. With poetic irony, the Republican "solidarity" serves only to empower the various factions of the Democrats by affording them more leverage in their negotiations with the White House.
The president's budget is breath-taking in its ambition. And it seems that the president is bypassing the usual communication channels and taking his message directly to the American people with his appearances on Jay Leno's Tonight Show, 60 Minutes, and even ESPN. This all occurred before last night's prime time press conference. His approval rating stands at ~61% and this is coming off the worst week of his presidency thus far, with the revelations about the AIG executive bonuses.
This seems to indicate that President Obama recognizes the need to strike while the iron is hot. He's got political capital; the Republicans are foundering; and the American public trusts him (for the time being, anyway).
So, he's going for it.
The GOP cannot offer effective opposition until they get their own house in order. Congressional Democrats are jockeying for position within their own party. That gives the president as much of a free hand as he is ever likely to get.
People can argue about whether or not his plans to rescue the economy, withdraw from Iraq, salvage the situation in Afghanistan, implement universal health care, begin a process for transitioning the nation to alternative energies, rebuild the infrastructure, and restructure and improve our education system will work. But we're in crisis and we either go with his plan or we do nothing and hope for the best.
I'll tell you... I wouldn't want that job.