Loose Canons

Give ‘em Hell, Barry

The lame-duck Congress is there for the Republicans' taking.

By 12.13.10

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To paraphrase the crow in Disney's Dumbo, I've seen a peanut stand, I've heard a rubber band, and often I've seen presidents lie. But now I'm sure I've seen everything, because I saw a president replace himself in the middle of a press conference with someone he must believe to be possessed of greater political skill, charm, and credibility. The first episode of Bubba's Back came at the tail end of the latest weekly chapter of Obama's annus horribilis.

First came Barry's Monday announcement of a deal with Republicans to extend the Bush-era tax rates. Then there was the Tuesday presser at which the nicest thing the president said about the Republicans he'd just made a deal with was to call them "hostage takers." He didn't only excoriate Republicans: he bashed the heck out of the already-critical Dems, calling them "purists" for questioning the deal.

Day after day, Obama proved his weakness and lack of basic political skills. When you make a deal you say at least one nice thing about the other side and maybe yuk it up about how hard it was to corral your unruly allies.

We cynics thought on Monday that the deal really wasn't done yet. On Tuesday, Obama started to come to the realization that the monster he created was no longer under his spell.

And then came Wednesday when the FrankenHouse monster broke its chains. The monster -- the whole House Democratic Caucus -- met to reject the deal. The FrankenHouse Dems were performing just as Obama should have expected. In the stimulus bill, Obamacare and so much else, the president grandiosely announced his idea and then stood aloof from the political work essential to passing legislation. The House Dems (and their Senate counterparts) were in complete control and rammed the bills through without even bothering to notice that there were Republicans in the room. Before the tax "deal," the only dealmaking that had been done was between the various Dem factions, their union bosses, and the AMA.

The Wednesday House caucus rebellion demanded a seat at the table which -- before the tax "deal" -- they had dominated. Obama had never bothered to dirty his hands in actual congressional dealmaking before, so the rebellion was a reaction anyone could have predicted. Anyone except Barry.

There were many reports of boorish behavior at the meeting, some emanating from members who were there. The libs reportedly chanted "just say no" and a few declaimed "f*** Obama." When Republicans say such things -- as Vice President Cheney did to uberlib Pat Leahy some years ago in the Senate cloakroom -- they have at least the courage to say it in person.

By Friday, even Democrats were admitting that which we knew in 2008: Barry knows how to campaign but not how to perform the basic tasks necessary to govern. And it's worse than that. Leadership is not only beyond him, he apparently views it as just too much bother. And, by Friday, Obama's "deal" was unmade. So he brought Bubba back to town to lobby the fractious Dems and their media pals.

At Friday's presser, after playing the concerned president, Obama looked at his watch, announced that he was keeping the First Lady waiting too long, and stalked out of the briefing room, leaving the podium to Bubba who kept it for another thirty minutes. It was more than a little amusing to see a startled presidential press secretary Robert Gibbs leap out of his chair to follow his boss out of the room.

It's sad that we Americans and our political process are such burdens to Barry Obama. He'd obviously be more comfortable if he were the president of an unpopulated corner of Mongolia. His discomfort is proof of weakness and that the Republicans, if they stick to their guns, can make a clean sweep of the lame duck session.

Obama -- and Congress -- have to accomplish a few things before the 111th Congress adjourns for good. The tax rates have to be set, quickly, at the Bush rates and for at least two years. If they're not, all those investors facing a huge increase in capital gains taxes on January 1, 2011, will sell this year, causing a big drop in the Dow. Assurances from departing dolts -- such as Florida's Alan Grayson that there's no need to pass a bill now because current tax rates could be restored retroactively in January - will not prevent a huge stock market drop before Christmas. And Congress, lest the government close for a while, has to pass another omnibus spending bill before they bail out.

But other than those actions, the Republicans need to stick to their blockade of any other actions. They've about won the START treaty and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" battles. The nightmarish "DREAM" act, another route to amnesty for illegal aliens, has virtually no chance of being confirmed unless Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Az) suddenly caves in, which is increasingly unlikely. None of these bills needs to be passed this year, if ever.

Nancy Pelosi will fight to the bitter end, and Hapless Harry Reid will fumble and stumble along to the finish. They are desperate to achieve more liberal victories before relinquishing power in January. But the Republicans place themselves unnecessarily in danger by misreading Sun Tzu.

The Chinese philosopher-general, whose 300 B.C. work The Thirteen Chapters we now read under the title The Art of War, is often misquoted to have written that when an adversary is destroying himself, don't interfere.

But his advice was more specific. He wrote that a great general would not attack a cornered adversary, forcing him to fight to the death. The Dems aren't quite cornered: they still have considerable power, but they are in disarray. The master wrote, "…those skilled in war avoid the enemy when his spirit is keen and attack him when it is sluggish and his soldiers homesick."

In World War II, the submarine service had a tradition that a sub returning to port after an unbroken string of successes would post a broom on its mast to proclaim a clean sweep. A Republican clean sweep of the lame duck is within the GOP's grasp.

Now is the time for the Republicans to reject compromise on START, DREAM, and DADT. Gen. George Patton used to quote Frederick II of Prussia: "L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace." That should be the Republicans' standing order for the remainder of this Congress. Adhering to that principle, they can earn their clean sweep brooms and set the stage for next year.

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About the Author
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. He is coauthor (with Herbert London) of the new book The BDS War Against Israel. You can follow him on Twitter@jedbabbin.