Bob Franken

King Features Column

(As usual, the arrangement with syndicators means these columns appear here a week after their newspaper release)


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It’s a confession that makes me cringe: I have been one of those TV types like those we’ve witnessed standing in the middle of Hurricane Irene with everything flying around, informing the world that yup, it sure is stormy out here. It’s what we do.

In and around politics, however, the blowhards pretend to ignore the obvious; such as there is no way in the world that Republicans in Congress are going to make any deal with the White House that furthers any purpose but unelecting President Barack Obama. That internal debate we hear of in the current administration about whether to pursue compromise or force the issues is a big waste of time. The only motivation for any accommodation by their adversaries will be avoiding embarrassment.

Still, there’s the pointless argument between the “let it all hang out” crowd and the incrementalists. The White House needs to abandon what AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka calls “little nibbly things” and instead chomp on the other side with an aggressive push for higher taxes on the rich, tough regulations on financial flimflam artists and spending on labor-intensive public-works projects. Never mind that the tea partiers will scream about “class warfare”; it will be and should be, since their wealthy patrons have been conducting class warfare against the poor and middle class for a long, long time.

The Democrats need to point fingers at the GOP enablers in Congress who take campaign contributions in return for keeping legal what should be white-collar crimes. As for the president, instead of pandering to big-business interests, he should make a forceful issue out of their misconduct.

Nationwide, a bad taste still lingers over that debt package. That’s because Obama let the extremists roll him. Instead of buckling to right-wing coercion, when the clock ran out, he simply should have moved unilaterally to avoid financial disaster. Instead, he took the 14th Amendment option off the table, eliminating his enemies’ (yes “enemies'”) fear that they were in for a brawl.

Similarly, when Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann or Mitt Romney or some of the other noisemakers utter something that’s dense or worse, don’t ignore it, ridicule it. At the same time, those of us who keep track should be less preoccupied with style and other superficial considerations. Enough about Rick Perry’s down-home drawl. We’ve struggled with racism in this country, and sexism; we don’t need Texism. Let’s focus instead on what he’s saying about cap-and-trade, and the Federal Reserve and teaching “intelligent design.” Some of that stuff is anything but intelligent. Say so.

And forget Bachmann’s gaffes. We play into her hands by focusing on them while she gets away with a lot of substantial absurdity and irresponsibility, such as her insistence she would not have voted for a debt ceiling under any circumstances.

Democrats might identify Mitt Romney for what he is, an apologist for the very-big-money operators who brought the United States and the world to the brink of ruin, saved only by the desperation expenditures they now condemn. When he declares that “corporations are people,” someone needs to respond that far too many corporations have been shamelessly inhuman.

Barack Obama has nobody to blame but himself for the questions about his leadership, or lack thereof. In the face of relentless attacks he likes to shrug them off. Compromise is desirable, but not when only one side is giving and taking. So far, it’s mainly been take and take. Maybe he needs to modernize his thinking about turning the other cheek. That was fine in its day, but in this ill-wind era, it needs to be revised to “Turn the other cheek, which will fake out your opponent, and then deck him.” If not, he will be a one-termer — the opposition will have far too easy a time blowing away his presidency.

© 2011 Bob Franken

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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