President Obama Brushes Back His Activist Left

Obama looks to find common ground with Republicans on the Keystone XL pipeline and on Social Security.

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KEVIN LAMARQUE / REUTERS

President Barack Obama descends the steps of Air Force One upon his arrival in San Francisco, April 3, 2013.

When President Obama released his first budget to the nation in February of 2009, he spent his afternoon meeting with the liberals from the Congressional Black Caucus at the White House. On Wednesday, when he releases his fifth budget, he will privately dine instead with a dozen Republican Senators.

This change is not just a matter of the White House social calendar. While Obama’s first budget was hailed by progressives as a breath of fresh air, his latest is earning scorn from those same quarters for its plan to cut Social Security—a heresy among many of the President’s liberal base, who have long argued that Social Security is not a contributor to the debt.

“You would expect that the President and the way he campaigned would be defending Social Security, not offering it for sacrifice,” said Roger Hickey, the co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, one of many liberal groups that have already promised to fight the White House. “There is going to be huge resistance.”

(MORE: Why the Fiscal Cliff Deal Should Have Included Social Security)

But Social Security is not the only reason members of the President’s base are riled up at the moment. Last week, on a fundraising swing in San Francisco with well-heeled environmentalists, Obama dodged making any specific public comment about the environmental cause du jour, efforts to stop the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. But in his public remarks, the President did seem to validate the arguments of the pipelines’ supporters, who have cast the project as an economic boom.

“What we’re going to have to do is to marry a genuine, passionate concern about middle-class families and everybody who is trying to get into the middle class to show them that we’re working just as hard for them as we are for our environmental agenda,” he said, talking generally about the issue of global warming. “The politics of this are tough,” he added.

Opponents of the pipeline saw clear cause for concern. “Of course it’s alarming,” says Damon Moglen, the climate and energy program director of Friends of the Earth. “He told us that climate change was an absolute priority, and to say that it’s no longer a priority because people have other concerns is actually just an abdication.”

(MORE: White House: Keystone XL Pipeline Not A Climate Change Cure)

Obama has not yet taken a position on approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which environmentalists say would increase the risk of ground water contamination and speed the extraction of oil that will eventually contribute to global warming. But like his stance on Social Security, his delicate handling of the pipeline issue is designed to appeal to Republicans and moderates in Congress. In addition to overwhelming Republican backing for Keystone XL, 17 Democratic senators have signaled their support for building the pipeline.

“Look, my intention here is to try to get as much done with the Republican Party over the next two years as I can, because we can’t have perpetual campaigns,” Obama told the same fundraiser in San Francisco last week. “I am looking to find areas of common ground with Republicans every single day.”

The White House has explained Obama’s embrace of lower cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security as part of a similar effort to woo Republican support for a budget deal. “This is not the President’s idealized budget,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Friday. “It is not what he would do if he were king or if only people who supported his proposals were in Congress.”

(MORE: Why Many Americans Feel Like They’re Getting Poorer)

But such admissions will likely do little to muffle the liberal backlash Obama is likely to face in the coming months. Already, he finds Keystone XL protesters lining the streets on nearly every trip he takes away from the White House. “That I promise you is going to get stronger and bigger,” said Moglen.

Groups are also organizing around the President’s proposal to reduce the cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security. MoveOn.org has launched a “photo petition” on Tumblr, featuring Obama supporters who oppose his proposed cuts.  The AARP, the powerful group for seniors, has also launched a campaign against Obama’s Social Security plans, pointing out that Obama specifically pledged to the group in 2008 that he would not reduce Social Security’s cost-of-living adjustments.

But as expected, there are signs that the President’s moderation are bearing fruit. On Sunday, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican certain to be a part of any big deal on deficits, said he was encouraged by the President’s latest budget proposals. “The president is showing a bit of leg here,” Graham said.

MORE: Despite Talk of Cuts, Members of Congress Push More Spending

44 comments
wrdunaway
wrdunaway

Do not believe anything our President says, he ran his campaign on fixing Social Security, and Medicare, now he wants to cut both. This money is not his, nor any political persons to do anything with, this money was paid in buy the working people, for the working people, has nothing to do with the deficit. Had our Politicians left this money alone there would be plenty. The politicians are only the caretakers of the peoples money for SS, and Medicare Had we as Americans started taking money from other people, knowing we were just the caretakers of this money,we would be in jail. Look at Bernie Mattof, he is in jail for doing the same thing our President, and all politicians are doing to the peoples SS, and Medicare money.

,

SouthLib1
SouthLib1

POTUS showing his DINO roots.

SwiftrightRight
SwiftrightRight

It's called a political compromise. People have short memories, flash back to 2006 and the left was frothing at the mouth because GW Bush was acting like an Imperator forcing a no compromise right wing budget and yet some how those same folks want Obama to play the role of Imperator and force a no compromise left wing budget. 2 wrongs don't make a right and ideological grid lock has been tearing the nation apart.

As a moderate I want to see the DoD budget slashed but I also think that common sense social welfare reform is a good idea. I mean come on people live almost 15 years longer then they did when SS was started but we still have a SS start that reflects most people not living past 62. I have no problems with food stamps or housing aid but, there is a difference between helping a young parent with 2 little kids who cant work and helping a parent with 2 teenagers who hasn't worked since 1999. 

melonheadx13
melonheadx13

starting on the right already compromised and then going farther right to appease tea baggers is very disappointing.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

"...scorn from those same quarters for its plan to cut Social Security—a heresy among many of the President’s liberal base, who have long argued that Social Security is not a contributor to the debt."

Number one, Social Security does not contribute to the debt. It doesn't make you look smarter to attribute verifiable facts to other people. Even when they're liberals, its still makes you look like someone who is simply too stupid to understand them. Second, cutting Social Security is heresy to almost 200 million Americans (around 80% of all adults), not just "many of the President’s liberal base."

Beforeyou write cr@p like this, why don't you just go outside and punch a hippie. Since you probably won't find any maybe you will finally realize that they're a figment of your pathologically non-partisan imagination and get your head straight enough to do some decent reporting.

DerekHologram
DerekHologram

This is one time when the fascist, obstructionist policies of the hate filled and ignorant Right may come in handy.

paulejb
paulejb

Barack Obama pushes back against his communist allies? Wonder what he has up his sleeve now?

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

Oh good. Almost in time to really piss people off so they stay home in the off year election as they did in 2010 and give the Republicans stronger hold on the laboratories of democracy. (tm Charles Pierce.)

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

BHO isn't running for office anymore. Members of Congress are. That's the calculus that will decide whether cuts to SS go through.

Sue_N
Sue_N

“I am looking to find areas of common ground with Republicans every single day.”

Well, you can stop looking now, Mr. President, because there aren't any. They aren't going to compromise, they won't listen to reason, they're not open to discussion. And their idea of "give and take" is you give, they take. That's it.

Handing SS and Keystone over to these people isn't going to make them like you. It's only going to make them hungrier for more.

We figured this out years ago. When will you finally get the message?

destor23
destor23

MS, you should reconsider this point about Social Security: "...earning scorn from those same quarters for its plan to cut Social Security—a heresy among many of the President’s liberal base, who have long argued that Social Security is not a contributor to the debt."

Social Security cuts are not just unpopular with liberals.  They are, in general, unpopular.  The mainstream view is that Social Security benefits should not be cut.

grape_crush
grape_crush

> ...who have long argued that Social Security is not a contributor to the debt.

So are they right or are they wrong, Scherer? Enough with the wishy-washy journalism. Do some actual investigation.

> “I am looking to find areas of common ground with Republicans every single day.”

Why? The current crop GOP congresscritters doesn't respect legislative sausage-making or compromise. Historically they've shown that they're not willing to meet the President halfway or even a quarter of the way; anything less than total victory is a sign of weakness. Give them an inch, they will want a mile. Give them a pipeline, they'll want to gut the EPA. 

Thing is, it's not only the GOPers that look at this needless, stupid softening of his positions as weakness. And yes, it's stupid in that he's tipped his hand as to what he might consider to be allowable in the legislation that might hit his desk. The President isn't just showing a"a bit of leg" here; he's just flashed his crotch.

> “Look, my intention here is to try to get as much done with the Republican Party over the next two years as I can, because we can’t have perpetual campaigns...”

Why us there a need for the President to do either?

Focus should be - one thing Joe Klein got right - on promoting effective and un-sexy Federal administration. Obama should be doing everything possible to get his branch in order with what he has to work with. Get out of the way of a Congress that's drowning in its own dysfunction, don't be double-dog-dared into inserting himself into legislative fights, explain clearly and persistently to the political media that it's the legislative branch that writes legislation and if Congress cannot get a bill through both chambers, there's no need for a President with multiple priorities to have to hand-hold and coddle a bunch of children who are unwilling to do what they were elected to do. Period.

> Lindsey Graham, a Republican certain to be a part of any big deal on deficits, said he was encouraged by the President’s latest budget proposals.

Bulls**t. If Graham supports a deal that's not close to 100% in compliance with right-wing objectives, he'll get an earful or more during his upcoming primary. He'll be too busy running to the right over the next year and a half to be anything but an anchor in these budget and deficit negotiations.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Sheds cold water on all the idiots running around screaming "Socialist" doesn't it.

MrBenGhazi
MrBenGhazi

I've been arguing for a while now that the Keystone XL pipeline was a loser for Democrats, and they should just pass the bill and move on to the next fight. The proposal has broad support except among the left fringe and would have the appearance of a jobs bill. 

I'm generally against bills that have the effect of helping "big oil" on the principal that companies and industries should live and die by the proverbial economic sword, but in this case I believe the smart political move is to support it. 


gysgt213
gysgt213

"for its plan to cut Social Security—a heresy among many of the President’s liberal base, who have long argued that Social Security is not a contributor to the debt."

So does it or not?  Arguing something or it being true or false are different things.

Here is what the liberal lion Ronald Reagan said about SS.

"Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit. Social Security is totally funded by the payroll tax levied on employer and employee. If you reduce the outgo of Social Security, that money would not go into the general fund to reduce the deficit. It would go into the Social Security Trust Fund. So Social Security has nothing to do with balancing a budget or erasing or growing the deficit."
So a couple of things.
1. Ronald Reagan was literally lying when he said this.
2. He had no clue what he was talking about. 
3. He was totally taken out of context. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ihUoRD4pYzI
http://themonkeycage.org/2013/02/03/social-security-does-not-add-to-the-debt/

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Thanks, Michael. Your post lists why Obama really isn't a liberal, but hell, WE have been saying that for a long time. Do read and reply to us more often like you used to, you'll survive it. Of course, Obama is a far better alternative than a President Romney, McCain, or Palin (don't bet she would've sat bored presiding over Senate sessions without planning to push out Grumpy Cat, you betcha), so there's no Sophie's choice here. But you didn't list a concrete example of why Keystone faces objection: those things leak, witness the Arkansas pipeline disaster. And can you always count on the company running the pipeline to clean up the mess quickly and with full consideration of the innocent residents? 

DerekHologram
DerekHologram

This move means he will have no legacy. It will be up to the real progresives in the party to punish any other Democrat who supports him.

bobell
bobell

There was a brief moment in time when the president actually seemed to Get It.  He demanded higher taxes on the rich and refused even to talk about the debt ceiling. And although he didn't get everything he wanted, he got a large chunk of it.  Now he's taken a position to which, at most, he should have been dragged kicking and screaming as a last resort -- and he's made it his latest offer, which of course the Republicals promptly rejected, since anything that comes from The Evil Obama must be rejected. He should have  released a budget that Bernie Sanders would find too liberal and allowed himself to be talked down from it in gradual stages.  As if the Rs aren't going to wrap chained CPI around the Dems' necks like an albatross.

Ohy, and lest I forget, we need stimulus, not deficit reduction. Jobs, jobs, jobs. How soon we forget.

Stuart Zechman, if you're reading this -- You were right all along.  We are confronting the right-wing loonies with a centrist. The scales will never balance that way. The American people will pay the price.

WebAntOnYT
WebAntOnYT

@Phaerisee President Obama is destroying his credibility with lay Democrats and I hope they don't take their anger out on Congressional Democrats in 2014. The more condemn the president's budget the better their chances are for winning in 2014. However,more importantly, the Democrats must protect those on Social Security and in other entitlement programs at all costs. If they fail to do so, they will put themselves on the same level as Republicans who have nothing but contempt for the less fortunate, the old,and the sick.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@sordidsentinel1And yet:

"Some 61 percent of voters are concerned the Obama administration will move the country more toward socialism in his second term.  That includes 38 percent who are “very” concerned.   And nearly half feel that is already happening:  49 percent of voters think the federal government is providing too many services for too many people.  Twenty percent feel the opposite -- the government is providing too few services for too few people.  A quarter think services are being provided at the right level (25 percent)."

It's a FOX poll, but still. If Obama isn't a centrist in his heart, he's still a politician through-and-through.

http://nation.foxnews.com/poll/2012/12/17/poll-obama-moving-us-toward-socialism#ixzz2PzkbnJu5

WebAntOnYT
WebAntOnYT

@sordidsentinel1 He seems to be working hard to make that abundantly clear. Unfortunately. Good thing for the American people that Congressional Democrats have no problem with standing up to him.

jmac
jmac

@sordidsentinel1   Not liberal; not  even Reagan.  Social Security is a successful government program.  It needs to be tweaked by raising the cap.  It's been tweaked many many times before.  It doesn't need to hurt those at the bottom of the barrel.  Republicans hate it because -   IT'S A GOVERNMENT PROGRAM THAT WORKS.  

 Offering this gem to Republicans who are going to use it to hit him over the head - brilliant.   

SwiftrightRight
SwiftrightRight

@paulejb I dont know but you can sure as heck bet that Obama will once again have Castro, Mao and Brezhnev dictating policy! Next thing you know King HussianObama is going to be inviting KenyaIslamic communisticnazi freedom/oppression fighters to just sweep in with black helicopters and take over America!

WebAntOnYT
WebAntOnYT

@Ivy_B I think Congressional Democrats will go all out opposing Pres. Obama so the Democratic base doesn't abandon or fail to support them in 2014. That won't be hard for them since it seems Pres. Obama is more interested in pleasing Republicans than pleasing his party members.

jmac
jmac

@Ivy_B   My husband met with his four military alums and their wives for dinner on Friday and sure enough these eight conservative Republicans were complaining about Obama and his Chained CPI cuts to Social Security.   Did my husband note to them that it was compromise with conservatives to get a bill through?   NO!  He complained along with them.

So it's not only that Dems might sit home, it's that Republicans will use Obama cutting Social Security to run in the mid-terms.  

jmac
jmac

@Sue_N  Boehner's comment to Obama's reaching across the aisle on Social Security was that he didn't go far enough.  He went far enough that Boehner and republicans will use it to keep the House as they will attack Obama for trying to cut social security.   How silent will the guy who complains in his headline about "activist left" be when Republicans use it to take seats?  

grape_crush
grape_crush

Oh yeah, and this:

"...working with Republicans only works when there’s something to work on. If a compromise on immigration reform happens, it will be because it’s the only one Republicans see as in their own interest, given the party’s deep unpopularity with Latino and Asian American voters. On everything else, Republicans have no reason to negotiate, and so they don’t.

But this hasn’t stopped pundits from offering advice on how the administration should work with Republicans to “get stuff done.” And judging from the latest White House budget, Obama has taken it to heart—his proposed cuts from Social Security and Medicare are an obvious attempt to appeal to pundits who hold “entitlement cuts” as the Holy Grail of policymaking."

Sue_N
Sue_N

@mantisdragon91 Nothing will ever do that. Wall Street has flourished under this president, Big Business is thriving, corporate profits are through the roof and banks are back to doing whatever the hell they want. Meanwhile, income inequality only continues to grow, workers are scrabbling just to put food on the table, and the middle class is becoming an endangered species.

Still the right will scream "socialism!" It's either that or the "n" word.

grape_crush
grape_crush

 @ZacPetit > I've been arguing for a while now that the Keystone XL pipeline was a loser for Democrats...

It's the wrong argument that you're making, though.

That pipeline isn't a jobs bill, that was justa way to market the project and make it acceptable.

That pipeline's oil isn't going to make prices go down for us here in the US. It will actually make them go up in the midwest, affecting food prices.

That pipeline's environmental impact - filling it and the possibility of its failure - should be enough reason alone to nix the whole thing.

> ...and they should just pass the bill and move on to the next fight.

And what happens when there's a 'next fight' concerning the environment? Do another collective shoulder shrug? Wuss out because doing the right thing is too hard?

Do we have enough time to do as little as possible to deal with the impact of the climate change that we are experiencing? 


bobell
bobell

@gysgt213 The problem, you see, is that Social Security is part of the federal budget. It has been since (doing this from memory) LBJ put it there beacause spending was going to go over $100 billion (the good olf days) and he wanted tto camouflage that by bringing SS into the budget and blaming the jump on that. For decades now, receipts have exceeded expendigure, which has made the deficit look smaller.

So yes, to the extent expenditures become higher than receipts (we're just about there now), the deficit will look larger. The amount in the SS trust fund has, in that sense, been spent; what didn't go to benefits reduced the apparent deficit. It's in a drawer in the form of gov't bonds.  As  benefits continue to exceed revenues, the deficit will look larger and the national debt will grow.  Is that a "real" phenomem? How do you define "real"?

BTW, that SS trust fund is a creditor of the national debt to the extent of the bonds it holds. We owe an awful lot of money to ourselves.  Prof. Krugman has made tthis point more than once.

stuart_zechman
stuart_zechman

@bobell I never, ever wanted to be right. There's no reward in it at all...unless it's not too late to stop the madness.

melonheadx13
melonheadx13

@jmac @sordidsentinel1 the polls show 80% of the population, republicans and democrats, do not want any tampering to social security.  why don't you start at that common ground and realize that you better move on to cuts to the extraordinary welfare for the romney rich who pay 15% in income taxes.  or is this a trick to sucker the republicans to object to the president's offer so he can once again say that he has offered and the republicans have once again out of spite rejected another approach?

melonheadx13
melonheadx13

@paulejb @sordidsentinel1 if we wanted to read or hear right wing media propaganda we'd be listening to the ones called bloviating ignoramuses like glenn beck, sean hannity and rush limbaugh, but we don't breath helium or live in the republican twilight zone.

how many slurs can you throw?  how about the president raising a black army of kenyan muslims who get their weapons from iran and are also socialist gay marxist fascists coming to take the guns and bibles from white ignorant bigot angry old crackpots.  whew!  you try one, wacko.

SwiftrightRight
SwiftrightRight

@WebAntOnYT I think what he is doing is building a public history of being willing to compromise with offers he know will never fly.

@ years from now no one will remember "chained cpi" what they WILL remember is how congress had the lowest approval ratings in history and how the GOP was the party of NO.

jmac
jmac

@Ivy_B   Finally! got through the censure.  Now want to add that the title of this piece using the term "activist left" is as annoying as Republicans running in the mid=term with twisted misinformation.  No one wants chained CPI, whether it's the left - or the right.    The proof will be in the rhetoric when Republican's run in the mid-terms.  

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@grape_crush 

"But this hasn’t stopped pundits from offering advice on how the administration should work with Republicans to “get stuff done.”

Obviously, this is for the pathological centrists in the media and among Democrats (my current poster child: idiot blowhard Ed Rendell). The tell is that careerist hacks like Scherer portray the Social Security issue as a fight with and opposition to "the left." He's not stupid enough to think that more than 80% of the public are liberals but he's politically smart enough to play the valueless, non-partisan court jester. It's where the money is, if you're not a "conservative" psychopath.

And, so-help-me-god, for the last time, Obama knows he's not going to get any cooperation from Republicans. Never. Going. To. Happen. And he's known it since 2009. It's always been 100% Kabuki for the pathological centrists, all of the time.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/polling/medicare-social-security-cuts-face-wide/2012/08/21/083c59f4-e3fb-11e1-89f7-76e23a982d06_page.html

MrBenGhazi
MrBenGhazi

@grape_crush @ZacPetit I won't argue that the Keystone XL pipeline isn't a bad move for the environment because it is. However, it is a bad political move for the Democrats. They're just not going to win the Keystone XL fight, and since such a small percentage of the country actually gives a crap about it, they are just losing face to the rest of the nation by continuing to drag it on. The Democrats that stand to gain in primaries by opposing the pipeline can still cast their symbolic "no" votes and score political points. The Democrats that don't have anything to gain in their primaries (which is the only political arena this matters in) need to just approve the bill and move on. There are bigger fish to fry.

My argument is just one of politics. Personally, I would love to see a group of experts sit down and really weigh the costs and benefits of the pipeline (or anything really) before passing a bill into law, but in reality this just doesn't happen. We are stuck with rules of the game of politics and on this issue, the Democrats are sure losers.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@outsider2011  "He may not be the most liberal president ever - but he doesn't have to actively shoot himself in the foot."

We wasn't shooting himself in the foot before his re-election, he was actively avoiding the fatal "liberal" epithet from the pathologically centrist Beltway and Wall Street establishment. That wasn't stupid. This is.

outsider
outsider

@shepherdwong@grape_crush 

I didn't think so originally; i think he really did plan to change things. But the bigots can't handle the idea of a black man having power (ever see delirious? Murphy nailed it back in the 80's) and decided to just say no to everything. 


Grover Norquist said this would be the new way for the GOP to be in gov't 

 At our 25th college reunion in 2003, Grover Norquist — the brain and able spokesman for the radical right — and I, along with other classmates who had been in public or political life, participated in a lively panel discussion about politics. During his presentation, Norquist explained why he believed that there would be a permanent Republican majority in America.

One person interrupted, as I recall, and said, “C’mon, Grover, surely one day a Democrat will win the White House.”

Norquist immediately replied: “We will make it so that a Democrat cannot govern as a Democrat.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/how-grover-norquist-hypnotized-the-gop/2011/06/30/AGYOUlsH_story.html


So, not only is this what the GOP is actually doing - but Obama keeps thinking he can get them to like him and agree with him?


It's madness. And annoying. He may not be the most liberal president ever - but he doesn't have to actively shoot himself in the foot.