Early in the week, the press spoke of Barack Obama’s willingness to extend “an olive branch” to Republicans. By the middle of the week, his “olive branch” looked more like a thorn bush.
A politician who promised a glorious new era of civility and concord was referring to his Republican opponents as hostake takers on the issue of tax cuts. “It’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage takers unless the hostage gets harmed,” he said. It doesn’t occur to him that he qualifies more as the captor in the analogy. After all, he is the one who was threatening to take action against the people by raising tax rates on job-creating business owners.
Obama can only hope that the American people will be seduced by a political version of the Stockholm Syndrome, a term that was popularized after Swedish robbers took hostages at a bank in 1973. During the five-day ordeal, the hostages, instead of resenting their captors, grew emotionally attached to them and made excuses for them after it ended.
Obama thinks the American people should feel gratitude to him for offering to release them from a tax-hike crisis into which he had thrown them. He casts himself as the passive negotiator in the struggle, but he is one who has been controlling Washington for two years.
His stance as a proponent of tax cuts for the middle class is as plausible as his stance during the healthcare debate as a champion of the Hyde Amendment. Had Obama been in Congress during the Reagan era, he would never have voted for middle-class tax cuts or a ban on government funding of abortion. But whenever a conservative policy drifts to the middle of a debate, he acts like he came up with it. He suddenly becomes an “angry” advocate for a policy he doesn’t like but has to take, or appear to take, out of political necessity.
The Democratic Party counts on a political version of the Stockholm Syndrome on most issues, for almost all of the debates in Washington revolve around “saving” the people from crises Democratic policies exposed them to in the first place. The way it usually works is that the Democrats create a program the federal government shouldn’t have established at all, the program inevitably fails, and then they rush in to “reform” it. Obama has talked about “education reform” in this way, as if his party had nothing to do with the failed policies and programs under discussion, as if he favors releasing children from unionized public schools with vouchers in hand.
Obama could put on a smile back in 2008 when he spoke of moving to “the middle,” because he didn’t think he would actually have to do so. But now that political pressures force him to the middle on a few issues, his smile has turned into a snarl. Real moves to the middle tax his ego badly. He regards the left’s lack of docility and the right’s resistance as a personal affront, and to build himself back up he has to play the victim and tear America down. “This country was founded on compromise. I couldn’t go through the front door in this country’s founding. And if we were really thinking about ideal positions, we wouldn’t have a union,” he spouted bitterly at Tuesday’s press conference.
The media was very impressed by his “passion.” But it was more like pouting that he had to give up yet another cheap, ill-considered campaign promise. That he knew his liberal base would be reading his stitched-up lips and hearing “no new taxes” on job creators made him feel very uncomfortable and defensive. So while ostensibly rebuking liberals he promised to practice class warfare at a more opportune time in the coming years.
In his post-defeat November press conference, he said that the American people failed to view his socialism as only temporary. But as his promise of class warfare at a later date shows, it’s only his minor suspensions of socialism that are temporary. It pains him to let the productive keep their own money, and he expects his spared victims to feel grateful for not having been mistreated more.