Saturday, January 24, 2009

Putting Republicans in Their Place

Jon Stewart once said that the views of extremists on the left and the right tend to dominate the airwaves because "moderates have shit to do!" Are we seeing President Obama take on the fringes with a drive up the middle?

During a Friday morning meeting with House and Senate leadership, Obama listened to GOP gripes and complaints about his proposals for the economic stimulus package, as Republicans trotted out their time-worn (and completely discredited) views on tax cuts as the holy grail. When asked to justify his proposal, Obama replied, matter-of-factly, "I won."

Coming from another politician at a different time (I earned political capital, and I intend to spend it), such a blunt response might elicit a sharp rebuke, especially coming from a President not even a week into his new gig. But these are not ordinary times, and Obama has a clear mandate from the people - lead.

Obama has been clear about the need for bipartisanship since he was Democrat candidate Obama, tromping through the corn fields of Iowa and crunching along icy sidewalks in New Hampshire, providing a different viewpoint than H. Clinton on what sort of leadership would be required to pull the nation from the dark abyss created by GOP rule.

His quick jab on Friday was a wake-up call, not only for those assembled for the meeting, but also as part of a broader discussion that officially began with his inauguration speech: the best ideas are welcome, regardless of party origination, and I'll reject your weak-ass efforts the same way I stuff a lame jump shot from the top of the key on the basketball court. This is a serious time, with critical consequence. Bring your "A" game.

In case Obama's poke didn't get the attention of those on the right, there were other observations to further emphasize his solution-based view of governing. "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done," Obama intoned, clearly drawing a line in the sand with Republicans. Ditch the anger, fear, and calculated outrage coming from the EIB, FOX News, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and other mouthpieces who have permanently stained conservatism by co-opting the label of conservative in an attempt to paint their wackadoodle views with the brush of legitimacy.

Wasting valuable time and resources on manufactured issues while the US is in crisis mode is over. Hear that, punditry? Don't attempt to react and justify Obama's decisions by getting manipulated into these exchanges. The last thing Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, and crew want is to find a fix for the problems. There's no drama in that. They live for conflict and outrage, real or imagined. Raise the level of discourse and have strong debates on ideas. Avoid slugging it out over beliefs. You can change ideas - you can't change beliefs. No one who watches Hannity or listens to Limbaugh is going to be swayed by intellectual thrust and parry, so don't bother.

Ideas are in. Conflict is out. What part of "change" do you not understand?

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