So the President is actually standing up to the Republicans. Huh.

So this is fun.

I was listening to NPR the other morning, and they were saying that the Republicans are livid that President Obama stuck to his guns on his “fiscal cliff” offer regarding phasing out the tax cuts for the rich.

You see, NPR explained, the Republicans figured the President would make an offer, then start negotiating with himself, undercutting his own position, while the Republicans just sat back and watched.

But a funny thing happened this time.  He didn’t.  The President is sticking to his guns and demanding the GOP let the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire.  And Democrats are pleasantly surprised to be able to say, “now that’s the guy I voted for.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise in principle that the President is standing up to the GOP.  The President won the election, and he was quite clear throughout that if he was re-elected, he’d get rid of the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

What’s probably motivating the White House more are the polls.  Not only have recent polls shown that a large majority of Americans, 67%, want tax increases included as part of the budget deal, but even Republicans support the notion 52-44, and even conservative Republicans are on board, 51-45.  That means, congressional Republicans don’t even represent conservatives in their party, let alone the rest of their party or the rest of the nation.

And the President knows it, and he’s playing it.  The poll also showed that the public at large, and independents in particular, would blame the GOP more than the President if the talks fail.

Now, the President has had polls on his side before, and not quite seemed to have taken full advantage of them. Back in 2010, the polls were showing that the public wanted Washington to cut the deficit, keep entitlements and tax the rich.

The public wants Congress to keep its hands off entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, a Bloomberg National Poll shows. They oppose cuts in most other major domestic programs and defense. They want to maintain subsidies for farmers and tax breaks like the mortgage-interest deduction. And they’re against an increase in the gasoline tax.

Peter Baker in the NYT has a delicious “news analysis” of the current standoff entitled, “Pushing G.O.P. to Negotiate, Obama Brings End to Giving In.”

Obama brings end to giving in. Imagine that.

Mr. Obama, scarred by failed negotiations in his first term and emboldened by a clear if close election to a second, has emerged as a different kind of negotiator in the past week or two, sticking to the liberal line and frustrating Republicans on the other side of the bargaining table.

Disciplined and unyielding, he argues for raising taxes on the wealthy while offering nothing new to rein in spending and overhaul entitlement programs beyond what was on the table last year. Until Republicans offer their own new plan, Mr. Obama will not alter his. In effect, he is trying to leverage what he claims as an election mandate to force Republicans to take ownership of the difficult choices ahead.

His approach is born of painful experience. In his first four years in office, Mr. Obama has repeatedly offered what he considered compromises on stimulus spending, health care and deficit reduction to Republicans, who either rejected them as inadequate or pocketed them and insisted on more. Republicans argued that Mr. Obama never made serious efforts at compromise and instead lectured them about what they ought to want rather than listening to what they did want.

You know what?  Bite me.  The Republicans long ago taught themselves that lying is the best medicine.  The only way to win over the public, the GOP figured, was to lie to them.  That’s why they created Fox News.  And it’s why they regularly lie about science (be it climate change or evolution), and pretty much every position they hold. Tax cuts won’t balloon the deficit.  Iraq really has WMD (and the war will be a snap).  Gay marriage will force straight men to divorce their wives.  And the President has always refused to compromise with Republicans.

When has the President ever refused to compromise with Republicans?  If anything, Democrats have been annoyed with the President’s seemingly endless efforts to compromise with both Republicans and himself.  The stimulus was a compromise (and then the Republicans voted against it anyway).  Health care reform was as compromise (and then the Republicans pretended it was a federal takeover of health care when it wasn’t).  Backing off of climate change was a compromise.  Proposing off-shore drilling was a compromise.  When hasn’t this President compromised?

Though, the President’s compromises did become less compromising in the last two years of his first term, as he grew to fully appreciate how duplicitous the Republicans really were.  So now, he’s actually standing up to them, full bore, and they don’t like it one bit.

This is what the President refused to do at the beginning of his first term – use his electoral mandate, use the polling in his favor, and fight from a position of strength for what he thinks is right.

Oh, and I read that the President is also demanding that Republicans let Medicare negotiate drug prices with Big Pharma, so that we can stop paying the exorbitant 300% to 500% mark-up that Big Pharma charges Americans to help pay for subsidized drug prices in Europe.  If the President is serious about this, this is a battle, even in the face of Big Pharma big money, that he can win (good luck explaining to the American people why they, and their government, should continue to pay 5x the price for Advair in order to subsidize cheap prices in France).

Now, will he hold firm?  I dunno.  And to some degree, that’s our job to help hold him firm.  But having the President recognize his own strengths in this negotiation is a darn good beginning to a second term, and it’s just the change I’ve been needing.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • condew

    “… emboldened by a clear if close election …”
    No sir, it was not a “close” election, it was a route, it was a mandate. It would have been total defeat for Republicans had they not gerrymandered themselves many, many safe house seats.

  • PDQ

    “the Republicans figured the President would make an offer, then start
    negotiating with himself, undercutting his own position, while the
    Republicans just sat back and watched.”

    Whattya bet me that Talky McPresident’s knee pads are at the dry cleaners? Once they come back, he’ll be back to his old self. Old habits die hard.

  • arcadesproject

    O’s stomping and roaring about taxes for rich folks is tied to his aim to cut medicare and social security. The idea is that taxes for rich people will make SS cuts and medicare cuts politically palatable. Can we have a show of hands from people who actually care whether Warren Buffet pays his taxes or not? I mean, if one’s income is going to be reduced and one’s health care degraded, would one actually give a crap about Warren’s tax bill?

  • hollywoodstein

    Another benefit of not compromising and letting the Republicans stumble over the fiscal “cliff” would be to see if anyone really is in control of the Republican party – the Establishment money boys or the astroturfed Frankenstein tea partiers of their creation. The Defense Contractors and Fiscal fat cats theoretically stand a drop a brick in their pants by going over the “cliff”. If they can’t stop the tea party jihadis from doing their thing it will reveal a lot.

  • Papa Bear

    Well, that’s okay then — as long as the important things are covered…

  • hollywoodstein

    Not buying it. This is not an affront to the Rs. This is a opening sop to the base. Obama was ready to give away the store before, so he will still be happy to compromise with the Republicans. They have learned on the optics and tactics, but he still is Compromiser in Chief.
    Now if he were a reborn leader, he would play hardball and have the nerve to let the TEA party drag the Republicans over the fiscal cliff. Hang it on the Republicans for a generation and then propose the OBAMA middle class cuts for his legacy. When I see that guy, I will modify my jaded skepticism.

  • A reader in Colorado

    And by the way, those past “compromises” you mentioned were seriously damaging.

    Because of Obamacare and its total surrender, now we’re stuck in an hysterical laugh-worthy argument with the media and the Republicans over whether OBAMACARE is socialized medicine!

    Meaning any serious attempt to reform our nation’s health care system will be stalled for a generation while people debate whether Obamacare is the government doing too much.

  • A reader in Colorado


  • Naja pallida

    And we’re not talking about actually fixing any of the giant loopholes, nor reinstating anything like Glass-Steagall. When all is said and done, our economy will still be sitting on the edge of the cliff. Obama will just feel better about himself.

  • A reader in Colorado

    I’m sorry, but swooning over this isn’t helping him hold firm. This president does not react well to praise and never has. He takes support and praise, turns it into a pretzel and uses it to excuse right wing turns.

    I don’t believe him. And you shouldn’t either.

  • Sweetie

    I’d be impressed if he were to strongly advocate taxing the rich at a reasonable level instead of the low level that they were taxed at prior to the Bush/Obama tax cuts for the rich.

  • Sweetie

    Oh please. All we’re talking about is restoring the low tax rate they paid before Bush got in.

  • lynchie

    More like a jelly fish with a stiffy

  • Naja pallida

    I’m not holding my breath until the deal is inked. There’s still plenty of time for Obama and the Reaganites in Congress to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. You can say he’s standing firm all you want, but it’s only firm until it isn’t.

  • MyrddinWilt

    Amen and I think that something like that was what Team Obama were planning all along. Restoring a budget cut to a social program is fairly easy. Re-opening a base once closed or re-starting a defense procurement program is next to impossible.

    I am not even sure that the middle class is all that much attached to the tax cuts. There is one chunk of the cuts, the rise in the AMT thresholds that is simply a matter of correcting the fact that the threshold should be indexed for inflation. But apart from that there really isn’t much in there for the ‘middle class’, i.e. what anyone who is not either on welfare or a billionaire calls themselves now.

    The stimulative effect of the tax cuts only scores a 0.3 multiplier. The treasury can pump much more money into the economy through quantitative easing which is another name for printing money.

    Still, I would like a slightly more forthright posture here. Nobody is out there with their middle finger extended saying ‘Grover Norquist can sit on this and spin’. Nobody is telling John McCain that it does not matter what his opinion is on Susan Rice: He lost the election in 2008 and the guy he lost that election to just got re-elected by a large majority.

  • cole3244

    its about fing time, not having to run again gives one a solid spine, whatever it takes i guess.

  • Houndentenor

    A Democrat with a spine! I didn’t think I was going to live long enough to see this!

  • Dave of the Jungle

    That which raises Republican blood pressures is a good thing.

  • ezpz

    Thanks for the reply and the honesty.
    Don’t want to burst any bubbles, but I’ll hold off popping the champagne cork until afterwards – when the final bill or law or whatever matches up to his words. And I hope they will.

  • No, it’s both side’s doing, but the fact remains that the President is now championing the issue, and that’s a good thing.

  • ezpz

    Ah, I thought you meant that they would cave to republicans. They will USE republicans and say they compromised when it will indeed have been those bribes.

  • Chathamization

    People can trump money. But people have to show up.

  • sunmusing

    I say they are weak because they cannot refuse the bribe…

  • ezpz

    Do you really think the president will renege on those back room deals?

    Miles Mogulescu in 2009:

    “…So the real story isn’t the right-wing rallies. The real story is that it appears that the Obama administration has made back-room deals promising that health reform will protect the profits of the health insurance industry, Big Pharma, and private hospitals, at taxpayer’s expense; that a “public option”, if any, will be ineffective; and that health care costs will continue to rise….”

  • ezpz

    It has nothing to do with weakness and everything to do with big $$$$$$$$.

  • ezpz

    “…the President is also demanding that Republicans let Medicare negotiate drug prices with Big Pharma, so that we can stop paying the exorbitant 300% to 500% mark-up that Big Pharma charges Americans to help pay for subsidized drug prices in Europe…”

    John, are you saying or implying here that it was the republicans’ doing?

    Internal Memo Confirms Big Giveaways In White House Deal With Big Pharma

    “…It says the White House agreed to oppose any congressional efforts to use the government’s leverage to bargain for lower drug prices or import drugs from Canada — and also agreed not to pursue Medicare rebates or shift some drugs from Medicare Part B to Medicare Part D, which would cost Big Pharma billions in reduced reimbursements….”

    And there was that Dorgan Amendment which was prevented by the WH from being voted on when it would have passed. Then, of course, when arms got twisted, a vote was ‘allowed’ and it didn’t pass…

  • sunmusing

    We also need to remember there are weak kneed Dems in congress…they are the ones to watch…

  • ezpz
  • lynchie

    Before anyone passes out with glee, let’s remember no deal has been struck in fact the “cliff” is all bullshit. Let sequestration occur, cut military and then pass bills that strengthen SS and Medicare and propose bills that cut taxes on middle class and poor and cut taxes on corporations who create jobs in the U.S. Cut corporate welfare (oil, agribusiness) cancel oil leases where no drilling has occurred, go after crooks on wall street and the banks and finally restore some democracy to this country. America gave Obama a majority and re-elected him no let us see if he can govern representing the interest of the people for a change, not big business.

  • And none too soon- after 4 years of pre-emptive surrender it’s time to stop the religious and fiscal fundamentalists in their ancient tracks.

  • S1AMER

    It most definitely IS OUR JOB to help him hold firm … and some timid Democrats start to abandon ship and run to the nearest camera to make the GOP’s argument for them … as equivocating “journalists” and “pundits” complain about Obama being inflexibly mean to those nice old Republicans.

    I couldn’t be happier about what I’m hearing out of the White House these days. I just hope they can keep up the volume to overcome all the other noise out there.

  • Mr. President stand strong WE GOT YOUR BACK TAX THE RICH

  • Drew2u

    Negotiating with Big Pharma? Weren’t those some of his bigger donators?

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