The Obama Response To Conservative Criticism

In his previous column, David Brooks wrote that “the Obama budget is a liberal, big government document that should make moderates nervous.” I didn’t expect today’s column, entitled  When Obamatons Respond, to be very favorable about Obama. Brooks surprised me.

The column presents five points from the responses of members of the Obama administration which are contrary to all the conservative talking points. He begins:

In the first place, they do not see themselves as a group of liberal crusaders. They see themselves as pragmatists who inherited a government and an economy that have been thrown out of whack. They’re not engaged in an ideological project to overturn the Reagan Revolution, a fight that was over long ago. They’re trying to restore balance: nurture an economy so that productivity gains are shared by the middle class and correct the irresponsible habits that developed during the Bush era.

The budget, they continue, isn’t some grand transformation of America. It raises taxes on energy and offsets them with tax cuts for the middle class. It raises taxes on the rich to a level slightly above where they were in the Clinton years and then uses the money as a down payment on health care reform. That’s what the budget does. It’s not the Russian Revolution.

I’ll list his other points more briefly:

Second, they argue, the Obama administration will not usher in an era of big government…

Third, they say, Republicans should welcome the budget’s health care ideas. The Medicare reform represents a big cut in entitlement spending…

Fourth, the White House claims the budget will not produce a sea of red ink. Deficits are now at a gargantuan 12 percent of G.D.P., but the White House aims to bring this down to 3.5 percent in 2012. Besides, the long-range debt is what matters, and on this subject President Obama is hawkish…

Fifth, the Obama folks feel they spend as much time resisting liberal ideas as enacting them. The president resisted union pressure and capped pay increases for government workers. He resisted efforts to create mandatory veterans’ health benefits. The administration plans to tackle the suspiciously large increase in the number of people claiming disability benefits.

As a conservative, Brooks still expresses qualms about what the Obama administration is planning but he does concede, “the White House made a case that was sophisticated and fact-based.” Could anyone seriously call anything coming out of the Republican Party in the past decade either sophisticated or fact-based?

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  1. 1
    Edward says:

    The republicans are bankrupt of ideas, you can only cut so many taxes. of course the republicans only have one other problem, the facts.

  2. 2
    '08AMA says:

    The 2010 elections will take care of the remaining GOPers in the Senate, we’ll have the fillibuster-proof majority, Obama wins his second term in 2012 in a landslide over the Thrilla from Wasilla, Limbaugh croaks from a heart attack spurred by a cholesterol count of 1,488 and we can finally forget about the GOP forever.

    cant wait.

  3. 3
    3rd world here we come says:

    Edward, what facts are you looking at ?? I’m here in the trenches with my small business. My customers are small and medium businesses. They are dropping like flies. Everyone in the business community is scared to death of Obama and his 3rd world policies. Stock market is crashing and Obama basically laughs about it.  Are you blind to these actual facts ?? Quit blaming the Republicans. Its all the politicians fault. Your team had plenty of time to warn everyone about this mess but they were too caught up in their quest for power to see what was happening. Americans have got to lose the “My Team is better than your team” mentality. The fact is Edward – Our Representatives both  Republicans and Democrats are thieving, conniving Magpies with the Media pundits in their pocket. Open your freaking eyes before it is too late !!

  4. 4
    3rd world here we come says:

    Is there anyone on this page that actually has any business experience ?? Or are you just a bunch of high school hacks ? The private sector is getting destroyed by Bush policies on steroids IE Obama. You people are ignoring it because – your favorite football team is the Democrats. News flash children – grow up and see this for what it is – we have a bunch of mafioso idiot criminals in charge from both teams. We are getting destroyed from within…Open your freaking eyes !!

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    3rd world,

    “Is there anyone on this page that actually has any business experience”

    Yes, I own a business. I am also an independent–this has nothing to do with a my team vs. your team mentality.

    That said, the facts remain that 1) the Republicans were the ones in power and, to the degree government policy can be blamed, it is their policies which got us into this mess, 2) the Democrats are least are pursuing policies which have a chance at improving the situation, and 3) the Republicans have nothing to offer beyond their usual attacks and simplistic talking points.

  6. 6
    Tom says:

    Obama is self-hamstringing in providing weak, lukewarm “solutions” to iron-hot problems that will NOT go away or even respond to his half-hearted half-attempts couched in flowery language.

    I voted for the guy, but I had no idea he’d be this weak and ineffective. Yeah, he’s better than McSame would have been, but is THAT how low we must hold the bar for success?

  7. 7
    Norm Richardson says:

    I lived through the  “great depression”, I’ve been a history & political buff all my life.

    The most important thing I have learned (that is not taught): There is not, now and never was, enough rich voters to win an election.  The only chance they have is to determine who is the most gullible of the lower social-economic classes, then profess the same values eg:  guns, religion, abortion, different skin color, in short all the things that are considered virtues by the most gullible of our voters.  The easiest target.

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:


    You may agree or disagree with his solutions, but Obama has done quite a bit in the short time he has been in office. It is absurd to claim he has been weak. As to whether his solutions are lukewarm, the bulk of the country backs him and the bulk of his opponents say he is doing too much. I find it difficult to take serioulsy complaints that all that Obama has done in such a short time is lukewarm, especially when no alternatives are provided.

  9. 9
    Eclectic Radical says:

    “Is there anyone on this page that actually has any business experience ??”

    I am officially an ‘independent contractor’.

    This means that I am a de facto employee, but under the letter of the law, my agreement with my ’employer’, and for the purposes of taxation and benefits, I am a small business owner. My client is a moderately sized outfit, as are their clients. Neither ‘big’ nor ‘small.’ I can only judge how well everyone is doing by work volume. As I am doing well, I have to assume they are all doing well. I do not automatically assume this will remain the case, but I don’t see the stimulus package acting to undermine this situation either.

    The fact that the business community is scared to death does not mean their fear is rational. The status quo is one of unrestrained license for those who have the capital to ignore the consequences of the market’s corrections (or who believed they did before this crisis) and quiet desperation for everyone else. Those who have hitherto enjoyed unrestrained license are naturally worried about losing it. Those who have survived under the status quo are naturally concerned about a change in the status quo.

    That all of this is human nature does not mean the former status quo was in any way good for the country as a whole. Regulation is good for small businesses, as proper regulation allows them to survive and compete rather than be swallowed by anyone with greater capital. Tax credits and cuts for the middle class  will help most small business owners far more than they hurt them.

    The bad economy will assuredly be bad for small business and I won’t deny that or pretend otherwise. A lot of businesses will probably suffer and some may fail. However, to attempt to blame the policies that will rescue some businesses and cushion the blow for the owners of others is irrational.

    The Republicans are playing politics at the expense of the economy, because of a faith-based view of the market. President Obama’s policies deal with the economic facts.

  10. 10
    Ron Chusid says:

    “The fact that the business community is scared to death does not mean their fear is rational”

    I suspect you really mean to say that their response is not rational (such as in the case of the person commenting above). There is certainly reason to be scared, but many of the responses coming from the right are irrational–as is seen when we look at the responses to the attacks discussed in the post above.

  11. 11
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Basically, you are interpreting me correctly, yes.

    It is rational to be afraid during difficult economic times, of course.

    However, their fear is expressing itself in irrational, even paranoid ways and is often misdirected. It may be rational to be afraid of a bad economy, but it is irrational to be afraid of efforts taken to correct the economy. It might be rational to fear their failure or even doubt their success, but fearing the effort itself is irrational.

  12. 12
    Ron Chusid says:

    Plus another aspect of the irrationality is the manner in which Obama’s actions are being considerably mischaracterized by many on the right.

  13. 13
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Ron, that is entirely true. However, I am going to indulge in a moment of snarky cynicism at the risk of appearing intellectually elitist, which I suppose I could be.

    Many of the people taken in by the mischaracterizations and propaganda from the right should know better, and would know better if they engaged in rational thought relative to economic issues. There is an ignorant, fundamentalist religious faith in monetarism as real and harmful to our economy as fundamentalist Christian social politics have been to our society. This overrides rational thought, sometimes in tremendously intelligent people who have no excuses for not being more rational on these issues.

  14. 14
    Norm Richardson says:

    Right on Radical

  15. 15
    Ron Chusid says:

    The traditional Republican strategy has often been to pander to these gullible groups, and then once in office ignore them as much as possible. This worked quite well for “country club Republicans” for quite a while. Then things fell apart for them. The religious right, after years of being ignored as much as possible, managed to get their own people into positions of power in the party (including the presidency). Instead of just pandering to the religious right, they actually started trying to impose the policies of the religious right on the country. This (along with their general incompetency in governing in recent years) got them thrown out of power.

  16. 16
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I agree completely. Goldwater was actually quite horrified by many aspects of the Reagan administration, and he and Nixon would have been at least as horrified by the Bush Era.

  17. 17
    Ron Chusid says:

    I’m not sure how Nixon would have responded to Bush. After Vietnam I would think Nixon would have been more cautious about risking getting involved in a quagmire in the middle east and I suspect he would have avoided going into Iraq.

    With regards to pandering to the religious right, it is hard to say. Nixon used similar politics, such as pandering to the “silent majority” which turned into the “moral majority.” He knew the Republican game was pandering and then ignoring them as much as possible policy wise. He might have gone along with Bush era infringements on separation of church and state as a matter of political expediency if he believed that it increased the chances for Republican victory.

    This opens the whole question of whether it was politically beneficial for the Republicans to allow the religious right so much influence. In the short term it helped. Bush probably would not have been reelected in 2004 without them.  On one level, bringing in Sarah Palin helped McCain with volunteers and money, but it also made him ultimately unelectable.

    The same is now true for the whole party. They are in a position where they depend upon the religious right for grass root support and donations and feel like they cannot survive without them. On the other hand, this association has turned them into a regional party of the deep south and Mormon belt which will have difficulty winning national elections.

  18. 18
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Well, my opinion of Nixon’s reactions to Bush’s administration are based on his actions. Nixon could pander with the best of them. His election campaigns were always dirty, rough, and nasty. In his two successful presidential runs he used the ‘Southern strategy’ invoking ‘law and order’ as a racial code phrase. Yet as the actual president he signed the last big civil rights bills of the era, giving us affirmative action and expanding minority programs. He always ran as a fierce Cold Warrior, frequently accusing Democrats of being Communists, but he signed SALT, began the process of engagement with China, and disengaged from Vietnam. He attacked ‘socialist’ policies, but he signed bills greatly expanding welfare spending and refinancing Social Security. His record in the House and Senate was a little more than slightly right of center in his day, but was significantly to the left of most Republican legislators today. He viewed Barry Goldwater as a dangerous reactionary, he was one of the three men (with George Romney and William Scranton) to whom the Republican Establishment turned in their desperate ‘Stop Goldwater’ ploy following Goldwater’s victory in the California GOP primary in 1964.

    Nixon was an extremely rugged politician who did whatever it took to win, but he governed on the basis that he knew better than anyone else. The very traits of stubbornness, paranoia, and secrecy that eventually led to his downfall would have prevented him from letting anyone dictate actual policy to him.

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