Everyone loves a good storyline, but after an Election Day in which the GOP made decisive gains, your media storytellers found themselves down a narrative cul-de-sac at the very moment they needed to shift their focus toward the excitement and melodrama of the 2012 presidential campaign. What to do? Where to go? Well, those questions have all been answered now that the tax cut compromise package deal has been sealed. President Barack Obama's political comeback is underway! And he only had to break a campaign promise to be relevant again.
But who cares what voters think? The plot is just getting so good!
Democrats are about to surrender the House. Republicans are pinching themselves for getting a tasty tax deal with an estate-tax cherry on top. And liberals say President Barack Obama is the biggest sell-out since Bob Dylan went electric.
Yet for all that drama, Obama closed the most impressive sales job of his presidency a few minutes before the clock struck midnight on Thursday -- winning House approval of a broadly popular tax-cut and unemployment extension opposed by the extremes of both parties.
Yes, for a while there, the Obama administration was looking like that season of Lost where they introduced Nikki and Paolo and everyone hated them and viewers were worried that the show was going to "jump the shark." But then the writers got serious and made some game-changing decisions about a alternate universe that was like a waiting room for the afterlife and a magical light at the bottom of a well. This tax cut deal is the magical light at the bottom of the well! Everything's going great, now!
And the reviews are in:
While admitting the deal itself is profoundly flawed, Obama nonetheless achieved a moment at least of bipartisanship with Republicans, persuaded Democrats to accept diminished expectations and went a long way toward rebranding himself as Obama Classic -- the circa-2008 politician at war with partisan discord.
"What you are seeing now is what he always wanted to be," said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a longtime Obama ally. "In his heart, he's a pragmatist, not an ideologue, and he's a lot more personally comfortable with being able to engage Republicans and not be as divisive."
The American presidency is a soft drink that tastes like bipartisanship.
Even the haters gotta recognize, right, Charles Krauthammer?
If Barack Obama wins reelection in 2012, as is now more likely than not, historians will mark his comeback as beginning on Dec. 6, the day of the Great Tax Cut Deal of 2010.
Children will celebrate Great Tax Cut Deal Eve by having to submit to a humiliating compromise, I guess.
Thankfully, Glenn Thrush, with an assist from Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), knows what the score is:
"He's done a damn good job selling, as good as anything he's ever sold," Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), said with a chuckle, a few hours before the measure headed to Obama's desk after passing with a 277-to-148 vote.
"My problem is trying to figure out exactly what he's selling."
In a word: himself.
Exactly. See, there may remain a few of you who are interested in public policy as a thing that actually impacts the lives of ordinary Americans. This is going to be an annoying period of time for you, because the media is about choke themselves out all weekend long about how this policy decision affects the 2012 horse-race. It's the only thing they're particularly good at reporting. But if you're interested in how the tax cut compromise actually affects Americans, here you go:
A bonanza of new and extended tax benefits could make it as easy as ever for the rich to stay that way.
Under legislation approved by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, Dec. 15, and now moving on to the House, savvy wealthy Americans would be able to capitalize on an environment in which their tax rates on income and investments remain at historic lows. Also, new rules would make it possible to pass on fortunes to heirs with less fuss and lower taxes than all but a brief period of the past 80 years. It's a far cry from the 70 percent bite the federal government took out of the largest incomes and estates as recently as 1980.
"The climate we'll have after this legislation is extremely favorable for wealthy families," says Jeffrey Cooper, a professor at Quinnipiac University School of Law and a former estate planner who has studied the history of U.S. tax law.
That's from BusinessWeek, in an article that somehow makes no mention of all the grueling work the rich are about to undertake, to create all those jobs they're supposed to make now that they'll finally have a few extra hundreds of thousands of dollars laying around.
Yes, for Obama, the past few weeks were the saddest weeks, and the words that were said made him look weak, but let's call this the comeback.