A review of President Barack Obama and his White House's interaction with congressional Democrats and Republicans reveals a troubling narrative: On too many issues, the president and his staff treat friends like enemies and enemies like friends. This is troubling because, I believe, the overwhelming majority of congressional Republicans are enemies of this president. They are dedicated to his failure in office, and no amount of bipartisanship or compromise on his part will ever change that reality. It will only embolden Republicans to demand more capitulation. They will oppose him no matter what, and he should govern himself accordingly. Dealing with them is a waste of time. Instead, he is quick to anger with those who are with him more frequently (congressional Democrats) than his political enemies (congressional Republicans).
This was made plain by President Obama's comments following the announcement of a deal with congressional Republicans on Bush-era tax cuts. What began as a single-issue matter -- whether to extend those tax cuts -- morphed into a fiscal-relief gumbo that will add $700 billion to the national debt. Particularly galling is the estate-tax capitulation. The agreement set an exemption of $5 million per individual and a maximum rate of 35 percent for two years. The estate tax, which was dormant this year, was going to return in 2011 with an exemption of $1 million and maximum rate of 55 percent. Other aspects of the deal include an extension of jobless benefits through 2011 and payroll tax cut by 2 percent for every American worker through the end of next year. Ultimately, all you need to know about the deal can be found in its supporters and critics. Very few Republicans are unhappy with this deal, despite its massive damage to the deficit/debt, while a critical mass of Democrats are trying to clean the residue out of their Christmas stockings from the lump of coal Obama gave them. Meanwhile, Republicans are working to undermine the healthcare reform he just signed into law and other presidential initiatives. And yet, he still deals with them as if they really want to do the right thing. Give me a break.
George W. Bush, an incompetent president, never treated his base as contemptuously as Obama deals with liberals. Even when Bush angered them -- No Child Left Behind and rampant federal spending, for example -- he worked hard to keep them in the fold. Not so with Obama. He responded to the criticism launched from within Democratic ranks that he sold out his campaign promise to let the tax cuts lapse by dismissing his critics as sanctimonious and fixated on purist policymaking. This unproductive response is part of a trend. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs derided the "professional left." Former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel lashed out at some liberal groups as "f+@king retarded" for their plans to run ads against conservative Democrats opposed to the president's health-care plan. These and other examples will likely be duly noted when the fundraising requests for the 2012 reelection campaign begin to hit the mailboxes of the sanctimonious professional left retards that elected Obama in the first place.
Worst of all in this may be his statement that he agreed to extend the tax cuts because the Republicans were holding the middle-class tax cuts hostage to the high end. In effect, he gave the GOP a roadmap to rolling him -- hold hostage something he wants until he agrees to give you what you want. It also appears that you won't have to hold the hostage very long before he gives in. How can he fight the Republicans tomorrow when he folded up his tent so quickly today?
Michael Fauntroy is associate professor of public policy at George Mason University.