President Obama hasn't just touched the deadly third rail of politics: He has thrown himself on it repeatedly. Even though he has walked headlong into one of the greatest economic disasters in history, faced the headwinds of the Party of No creating historic gridlock, and felt the political giving ground give way as the corporatocracy has pulled out the stops to keep their offshore tax loopholes and prevent regulation of Wild West Wall Street, he is doing, all in all, pretty well.
So what to make of the GOP rhetorical Obama-Pelosi-Reid carpet bombing that will roll out for the next eight weeks until the mid-term elections?
According to the "Obameter" at Politifact.com, 47% of Obama's campaign promises are in the works, 24% have been kept, 8% have been compromised, 16% have been stalled, and just 4% have been broken out of the 506 pledges that he made to the American people.
That's a pretty good track record for a president who has faced near-complete gridlock from a GOP determined not to govern, that has used the Filibuster a record number of times.
He has moved both of his judicial appointments, two highly qualified women, through the Supreme Court process to see them seated on the bench of the nation's highest court in spite of bruising rhetorical battles with Senate Republicans, particularly on the Kagan nomination.
He has effectively closed Guantanamo, albeit slower than promised, has the end of Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell in motion, again slower than expected, and he has brought home or redeployed the majority of combat troops in Iraq. All imperfect, yet all still moving forward on his agenda in one of the toughest environments to legislate anything in our nation's history.
The GOP has stellarly failed to participate in government, or govern, so it is not surprising that they are focusing their misdirection machine at the hot-button issues that Fox News and Right Wing radio has been Pavlovianly priming partisans with for two years.
Independents falling for this Orwellian campaign of deception are being asked to bring back into power the very people who created our massive crises over the last decade, and the same hated Wall Street power brokers who fund them.
Early this year, Wall Street started laying its November bets on the GOP. The Washington Post reported in February:
Commercial banks and high-flying investment firms have shifted their political contributions toward Republicans in recent months amid harsh rhetoric from Democrats about fat bank profits, generous bonuses and stingy lending policies on Wall Street...
Commercial banks and their employees also returned to their traditional tilt in favor of the GOP after a brief dalliance with Democrats, giving nearly twice as much to Republicans during the last three months of 2009, the data show.
The GOP is hitting Obama hard with the "failed" bailout. Was it a failure, though, and whose was it really?
"If the federal government had not bailed out Wall Street banks, unemployment could have skyrocketed to 25 percent," former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told CBS News' Sunday Morning in January of this year.
Paulson's connections to Goldman Sachs color his viewpoint, and economists are mixed on the effectiveness of the bailout, but one thing is pretty clear, that the GOP doesn't want you to remember.This was not only George W. Bush's mess, but his people also set up the solution to the problem which Obama largely inherited. In September of 2008 Politico reported on the bailout:
President Bush is "asking for a huge amount of power," said Nouriel Roubini, an economist at New York University who was among the first to predict the crisis. "He's saying, 'Trust me, I'm going to do it right if you give me absolute control.' This is not a monarchy." (Roubini told the New York Times that despite these concerns, he also thought the plan could help stave off a recession.)
President Obama took additional steps to limit compensation at bailed out companies as a condition of received TARP funds after it was revealed that companies like AIG were fulfilling their contractual bonus obligations with TARP money. Most banks have paid back the money so they can return to their usually obscene compensation schemes.
Beyond that, Obama unveiled a tax in January of this year on banks to recoup losses from the bailout, and establish funds to prevent the taxpayer from having to ever bailout Wall Street's banks again.
The other thrust of the GOP assault is on the health care legislation which they slowed down, but did not derail completely. As Marc Ambinder in the Atlantic pointed out, and many have reinforced, what they call "Obamacare" is really "Romneycare," the program that Republican governor Mitt Romney passed in Massachusetts, on a national scale.
While far from perfect, my child is no longer subject to pre-existing condition requirements because she was exposed to a rare type of strep that she may never see again, and whose recurrence is prevented by less than $60 of penicillin a year. My mother received her first check to close the donut hole in her Medicare pharmacy coverage. People without insurance will be able to get out of the emergency room loop and reduce both costs and fatalities in the not-too-distant future. People still get private insurance. The world has not come to a crashing halt, and grandma is still not shovel-ready, Sarah.
As Teddy Kennedy famously said, you move that political football forward a few yards a carry. Obama and the Democrats did it.
Jobs are clearly a problem, but as I pointed out last week in my Huffington Post piece "Manufacturing a Phony Job Crisis" the GOP and corporate America are slamming the pipeline prior to election day and leaving billions in money uninvested in growth until they can get the "certainty" that the GOP will protect their tax breaks and keep regulators at bay.
The GOP's so-called evil Obama-Pelosi-Reid cabal has called for removing tax loopholes for big corporations with postal boxes in the Carribean, retaining Bush tax breaks for all but the richest two percent of Americans, and the restoration of regulations that would keep big oil from more of the disasters like the BP spill, and make Wall Street more accountable for the flimsy financial shell games that they dream up.
Even the attacks on Obama's vacation days are flimsy. According to FactCheck.org, first "vacation" is all things relative, since presidents work around the clock, but Obama's 26 days in his first year were a fraction of W's 69 days or Reagan's 42 in 1981.
Yet the airwaves are full of doom and gloom for the Democrats, pumped up by the loud drumbeat of Fox News and Rush and his legions of Right radio reactionaries, and punctuated with jokes about the President which are factually incorrect.
Is Obama perfect? Hardly. He has had to do a few 180s on his principles, and his annoying habit of trying to prevent major parts of the American agenda from becoming political footballs by getting consensus from the GOP has driven Democrats daffy. He is often accused of being indecisive, yet more often than not his control of his hand of cards has been more out of overly deliberative movement on policy that is more plotting and plodding than indecisive.
For a guy who walked into a historic financial melt-down, two costly and controversial wars, and a country whose economy has been ravaged by decades of unfettered Wall Street excess under Republican-dominated rule, President Obama is doing pretty well.
The facts don't speak to the hype that will be barraging your mailbox, phone, television and computer.
It's a good thing to remember come Tuesday, November 2nd.
My shiny two.