GAME ON! The Battle for 2012 Starts Now

I have two questions to ask the man addressing a joint session of Congress Thursday night: Who are you? and What have you done with the President of the United States?

Seriously, if that was Barack Obama up there then where has he been hiding these past two and a half years? That’s the most confrontational I’ve seen this man be since he schooled Hillary Clinton during the contentious primary debates of ’08. After running the perfect campaign to get elected, the President everyone thought was going to be Superman turned out to be Clark Kent trapped in a closet filled with Kryptonite; Mr. Transformative turned into Captain Pragmatic; Jackie Robinson into Mookie Wilson.

Well, not Thursday night folks. Barack Obama finally came out, guns a blazin’ and gave the speech of his life. Not only that, he dusted off the self-imposed shackles that have been gradually eroding the effectiveness of his Administration – not to mention killing his poll numbers – and, in typical Dick Nixon fashion, made one thing perfectly clear. If Republicans planned on waiting him out “fourteen months” he was going to take them down with him. Period! Do NOT for a moment think that John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell didn’t get the message loud and clear. You want “my way or the highway” I’ll give you some “my way” alright, and, oh by the way, I’ll be paying a visit to your state over the next few days just in case you were a little hard of hearing. Now that’s what I call a bully pulpit.

Ladies and gentlemen I present to you the – hopefully – true President of the United States: Harry B. Obama. The Harry stands for Truman, the B for Baines (though it could also stand for balls, if you know what I mean, and yes, you do, in deed know what I mean!).

Now, before we go tripping over each other in sheer ecstasy, I should probably dispense with the party-pooper part of the piece so we can get on to the festivities. The $450 billion dollar stimulus plan (and, please, let’s get over the word; it isn’t synonymous with socialism, especially when Republican presidents do it) isn’t going to drastically reduce unemployment or, for that matter, significantly jumpstart the economy into high gear. I’m afraid we’re going to be on this yellow-brick road for the next few years. The President was quite correct in saying there is no silver bullet. In deed, even if passed intact – highly unlikely – it will probably reduce unemployment by less than half a point by next summer. Still 8.6% or 8.7% unemployment is certainly better than 9.1% or 9.2%.

But it does address two nagging issues that are at the heart of this sluggish economy: the lack of demand and the unwillingness of employers to hire new workers. [It was never about liquidity in the first place, seeing as how there’s over $2 trillion in capital sitting out there waiting to be unleashed]. Between the infrastructure component and the tax incentives for small business, even the most conservative of economists will be forced to concede that, on the whole, this plan has merit. It also has something else that even the most ardent and stubborn of Republicans will not be able to thwart: the support of the American people, along with the Chamber of Commerce and Labor. That’s one helluva trifecta! Put that in your pipe, Rush, and smoke it.

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We now resume the jubilation part of this piece. No matter what happens over the next few weeks, this President has finally served notice that he isn’t going to go down without a fight. And, quite frankly, based on what I heard tonight, he may have just resurrected his reelection hopes, not to mention the nation’s hopes as well.

Let’s face it: the debt-ceiling fiasco was a three-ring circus. It was a major embarrassment for the country as well as for this President. No matter how you sliced it and diced it, he looked feeble and passive. Whatever else you may say about voters – particularly independents – they want their leaders to lead. The last thing they want to see is their President looking like the Maytag repairman. It was humiliating to watch and, if there’s one thing Americans hate with a passion, it’s being humiliated. The spectacle proved costly to the President. In a span of eight weeks his approval rating plummeted from around 50% to 39%.

But, if Obama’s rating was sinking like the Titanic, Congressional approval ratings were half way to China. The Tea Party may have held a nation hostage and congratulated itself on its “purity” and “principles” but to millions of Americans – many of who voted for these representatives – they looked every bit the spoiled brats that they were. Deep within their bowels, the GOP was facing a conundrum. On the one hand, they had won a major victory over this president and, in the process, made him look ineffective. They had, in essence, succeeded in shaving off Sampson’s hair.

But they had forgotten the most important question every political victor must ask themselves: Now what? Because, in the final analysis, Republicans finally had to start taking ownership of the mess in Washington. It wasn’t just Obama’s economy anymore. Being the “Party of No” served them well when they were the minority. Now that they had a super majority in the House and 47 seats in the Senate, it was about as useful and productive as peeing in the wind. And the cost of their obstinance has been far more exacting than any of them could’ve imagined. In less than a year their approval ratings have fallen to record lows. Used-car salesmen and insurance agents have higher numbers.

To add insult to injury, these conservative stalwarts started hearing from their constituents – ALL OF THEIR CONSITUENTS – during the summer recess. Let’s just say that, absent the echo chamber of the Fox studios and A.M. talk radio, the natives were getting a bit restless. I’m guessing dear old Agent Orange was fit to be tied up there in Ohio whilst getting an earful. Suddenly, the GOP found itself in the same boat as the Democrats in ’09. Funny how the tide can turn in a hurry, isn’t it?

Throw in the “Come get some” throwdown Thursday and small wonder the GOP was, how shall I say it, “receptive” to working with the President. In the immortal words of Dick Martin, “You bet your sweet bippy” they’re receptive. Even the most in-the-tank ideologue can read an opinion poll. And right now, the polls are showing the electorate increasingly frustrated at the inability of Washington to overcome its partisan ways and work together. Their ire is directed squarely at the Tea Party, make no mistake about it. Want proof? Here it is, courtesy of the Speaker of the House himself.

“The proposals the President outlined tonight merit consideration. We hope he gives serious consideration to our ideas as well. It’s my hope that we can work together to end the uncertainty facing families and small businesses, and create a better environment for long-term economic growth and private-sector job creation.”

Sounds a whole lot better than “Dead on arrival,” doesn’t it? You bet your sweet bippy it does! Somewhere Harry Truman was smiling and LBJ was, well, takin’ a piss. Something about a tent. Can’t take that guy anywhere!