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Thursday, September 1, 2011

It's Chess, Not Checkers

Sept 1st, 2011
by F. Grey Parker

It was the smartest possible move.

The President has been saying for weeks that the GOP is putting party over country. The right wing echo chamber has lashed out in response to this. Yesterday, Obama gave the GOP a chance to disprove his accusations. They failed.

By requesting a joint session of congress next week to make a major jobs speech on the same night as the GOP debate, the President put Speaker Boehner (R-OH) in the position of becoming the first in history to deny such a request. That Boehner did so in favor of an intra-party TV spectacle provides the starkest view yet seen of just how far the Republican brand has gone down the rabbit hole.This Speaker is one of the least able in decades and one of the weakest within his own party in living memory. The debt limit fiasco exposed his total inability not only to forge consensus, but to restrain his own fringe.

Obama knew Boehner couldn't do the right thing without eroding his own power further. The President exposed the Speaker for the self-interested buffoon that he is and the party as one of disrespectful opportunists. The Republican primary is a year away. The field is not only still open, but is also still filled with peripheral longshots and outright loons. No reasonable American can argue that the GOP debate will have any real benefit to the country or the economy. But, it is now overtly declared to be that party's higher priority.

The Democratic Party now has the best 30 second spot in a generation, ready made to hammer their foes next year over their hyper-partisanship and it was handed to them on a platter.

I can see it now. And so can the DNC. "When the President tried to fight for jobs, the Republicans fought for a TV show."

It is brilliant.

Of course, some members of the American left, infected with their own version of Obama Derangement Syndrome, have seized on this as a "sign of weakness." This begs two questions. First, have they ever heard of the concept of the long game? More importantly, have they ever played chess?

The GOP ran last year on "jobs, jobs, jobs" and "protecting medicare." They have run the House this year without a single employment bill coupled with a coordinated effort to gut the social contract. All the while, they have unfairly accused the President of not paying attention to jobs. When the President comes forward to specifically address employment, he is outright told by the opposition, during the worst economic crisis in 80 years, that it is not as important as electoral politics.

The shrewd strategy of the Obama team is demonstrated by this move in other ways. The GOP's preference for their own will to power over forging policy is now part of next week's debate.

Does anyone honestly believe that Obama would have preferred to speak to the nation just prior to the GOP gathering? The various hopefuls would have had a chance to capitalize on whatever he said. Now, not only will the President be able to put the final touches on his jobs speech after examining the fresh extremes of those who would unseat him, he will be delivering it on the night of the NFL's first game of the season. Millions more televisions than usual will be on as a matter of course. It is not at all unlikely that the President will reach a wider audience than any other night of the year could provide.

To see this sacrificed pawn as a checkmate is a failure to grasp the game itself.


  1. "To see this sacrificed pawn as a checkmate is a failure to grasp the game itself."


    My question is, why does this seem to apply more to those on the Left suffering from ODS?

  2. I have referenced this before but did not link to my previous arguments. My apologies.

    I think the real danger to both a second Obama term and, much more importantly, pushback against the GOP's failures of policy is that there are so many voices on the left who essentially are spending today carrying the far right's water with this instead of using it to illustrate the opposition's distorted priorities.

    Obama's hard core opponents will never be swayed. Therefore, I do genuinely dismiss them. For the 2008 base to continue to spend so much time and energy assailing their "disappointing leader" rather than joining the fight against their actual ideological enemies is childish.

    It will serve no good but to push the less participatory "center" away from liberal policy.

  3. Grey, respectfully, I disagree. There are intangibles that, once lost, reduce a leader's ability to inspire. Yes, be prudent but remember prudence is merely a moment to get set before you knock your opponent on his/her ass. The President has demonstrated great facility with the former but has shown no acuity with the latter. Personally, I'm still waiting for him to be the man he said he is.

  4. Look, everyone knows the Repugs suck. That's why the Dems were voted in as a super-majority for the last five years. And what do they do with it, but let the tea-baggers take over. If that's any form of chess, it's letting the computer win at it while doing something else. Obama's got low approval ratings, and even his speeches don't attract viewers the way they used to. So do you honestly believe a public which wants to briefly forget it's in a suckonomy will skip their football games to watch a guy who hasn't made his case for his policies once since entering office? Look, if Obama was really that smart, our credit rating wouldn't be downgraded, and he'd have beaten the odds on the 2010 mid-terms on the basis of BP's mess alone. But it's pretty obvious that, with a few exceptions, he just likes to let the situation get worse, rather than confront it head-on. And I'm not really sure how that's a plus, if he really *is* using that approach for political gain. If that is the case, how does that make him any better than Bush during 9/11?

  5. When that actually plays out, please remind us and I'll cheerfully tell you you were right. But given the Dems record on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory (not to mention the President's sorry approval ratings), I won't start laying down any bets soon. I wholeheartedly believed in the "Obama's playing chess" view until the White House let the Far Right completely hijack both the stimulus debate and the healthcare debate. Now I am far from certain that the man I donated gobs of my own money to elect is such a brilliant chess player.

  6. Geez, guys, the President has been GOVERNING while all GOP does is take shots at him, and in that light, approval ratings are pretty good. The campaign hasn't started yet. Obama's strategies are excellent, as this unfolds here, and it is a long play. Keep the faith.

  7. @Political Bill: And he (the President) is going out there to offer a jobs plan--something that the GOP has not bothered to put out DESPITE using "Jobs! Jobs!" as a bloody shirt in the 2010 campaign.

    Now that they're in charge of the House...where's their jobs plan?

    To think that we are arguing over a schedule change and not seeing the fact that we're getting a jobs plan laid out by the President (who has been governing, not sitting around whining)...we've missed the forest for the trees.

  8. He should've had a jobs plan three years ago.