Obama’s Greatest Handicap: the Enemy Within

You might be old enough to remember the famous Pogo comic strip in which the little guy observed that we are our own greatest enemy (see Walt Kelly poster above).

Never before has this been so true of Americans – especially when it comes to Democrats.

President Obama’s greatest handicap in implementing his agenda has not been the just-say-no Republicans; it has been the members of his own party who balk at doing anything progressive.

During the debates over health care reform, it was the obstructionism of Democrats like Ben Nelson that perverted the process and produced that hobgoblin of a bill, which is making their party so vulnerable in the November elections.

To work around dissenting Democrats, the president and his allies had to make deals with the “opposition” – deals like the one that would force everyone, rich and poor, to buy health insurance, or else.

Now, once again, the naysayers are undermining their party’s chances in the coming elections.

They are opposing the president’s plan that would extend the Bush tax cuts to the poor and middle class but not to the 3 percent of Americans who make more than $200,00 a year ($250,000 for couples). Some want to delay a vote on the plan until after the mid-term elections in November; some want to include richer taxpayers in the extension.

The reason they give is that their constituents wouldn’t go along with a “tax increase” for anyone in the midst of a recession. But the polls show this is baloney. The majority of voters say they support letting the Bush tax breaks lapse for the richest of the rich, but not for the rest of us.

It seems obvious to me that the Democratic dissenters are driven by self-interest; they don’t want to pay more taxes and/or they don’t want to antagonize their wealthy contributors.

Whatever their real motives might be, the result is that once again, the Democrats in Congress are in push-you-pull-you mode. And the result is inertia.

You might wonder how by simply saying no to everything the Republicans have put the Democrats on the defensive and now threaten to take back the House and Senate. The answer is that Republicans are disciplined; they speak with one voice. Democrats are a squabbling rabble.

With friends like them, the president needs no enemies.