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Posted at 09:00 AM ET, 09/20/2011

The Morning Plum

* A changed landscape? On the morning after Obama vowed to veto any deficit deal that cuts entitlements without raising revenues, and accused Republicans of waging class warfare on behalf of the wealthy, the sense is unmistakable that a page has been turned, that the President is trying out an approach that’s fundamentally new. Commentators had constantly asked — in the awful Beltway cliche — how Obama would move to “hit the reset button” on his presidency. We now have our answer. The reset button has been pressed.

After months and months of stories about Obama and Dems giving up one concession after another, today the papers are filled with headlines and editorials describing Obama’s new hard line. Leading liberals are enthusiastic. And conservative commentators are falsely insisting that Obama’s new approach is merely about “playing to the base” — the surest sign yet that Obama is voicing sentiments and calling for policies that actually have majority support among the American people.

To be sure, Obama’s overall approval numbers still look very grim. Moderate Dems, playing to type, are not yet embracing his new approach. The jury is still out on whether Obama’s new tack will actually result in increased leverage that forces meaningful jobs-creation concessions from Republicans. The bad economy may still trump all.

But Obama is finally undertaking a genuine and ambitious effort to reverse the dynamic that landed him in his current political mess. If his conciliatory approach has mostly been a political failure, a more populist and confrontational approach may finally be about to be put to the test, as many of us had long hoped for.

* The “professional left” is finally getting its way: Carrie Budoff Brown and Ben Smith do a really nice job of talking to various leading liberals who confirm my point that Obama is now taking the tack the professional left has been urging him to take for some time now:

His mocking tone toward Republicans, along with the sharp left turn in his policy prescriptions, aimed to send an unmistakable message to voters who have increasingly questioned the strength of Obama’s backbone: Congress won’t push him around any longer. If Republicans want a deal, then they’re going to have to compromise, too. “He is starting the negotiations pretty deep in his territory, which is pretty smart,” Bernstein said.
To liberals, Obama’s new tone embodied two of their deeply held views: There’s no point in negotiating with Republicans, much less offering concessions before negotiations; and liberalism can win on the merits of the big issues of taxes and spending.

The whole thing is worth a read; it accurately reflects the left’s argument that going on offense and refusing to back off of core priorities is the way to win back the center.

* No more negotiating? James Carville puts it this way: “He fired his own negotiating philosophy, which I think was a very good start.”

* The defining fight of the Obama presidency? Mike Tomasky notes that Dems have tended to shy away from the big brawl over taxes, but says Obama seems prepared to stake his presidency on his ability to defy history:

This tax fight will be the great test of the Obama presidency. All else — stimulus, bailouts, financial reform, even health care — was prelude. The tax debate is the money shot. If he wins this one, all the failures, even the calamitous debt-ceiling agreement, can be forgiven.

The flip side of this, of course, is that now that Obama has chosen this course, caving would be nothing short of politically catastrophic.

* Moderate Dems tepid on Obama’s plan: This Politico paragraph says it all:

Centrist Democrats, a dwindling breed on Capitol Hill, were quickly faced with another rough choice once Obama went public with his plans: Reject their president or back what Republicans are already calling the largest tax increase in the nation’s history.

I don’t want to overstate this — ultimately moderate Dems may well back the President — but this really captures the choice: Who will they allow to frame the debate, the President or the GOP?

* Obama’s approval still dismal: McClatchy-Marist finds that Obama’s approval rating is at 39 percent, the lowest of his presidency.

But get this: Sixty four percent also said that Obama’s jobs plan doesn’t go far enough.

* Beltway head-in-sand-moment of the day: David Brooks is very, very upset with Obama for aggressively articulating his tax-the-rich vision, and signaling he won’t budge from it, in the face of Republicans who are aggressively articulating their no-tax-hikes-at-all-costs vision and signaling they won’t budge from it. That’s silly enough on its own. But then Brooks gives us this:

He repeated the populist cries that fire up liberals but are designed to enrage moderates and conservatives.

Brooks must have missed all those polls that show solid public support for tax hikes on the wealthy, particularly the ones that show solid support for high end tax hikes among independents.

* The fact that the GOP won’t pass Obama’s plan doesn’t make it purely political: Eugene Robinson knocks down the ubiquitous claim that Obama’s plan is nothing more than a campaign statement simply because Republicans won’t allow it to pass Congress:

Whatever does not fit the GOP’s worldview is, by definition, illegitimate. By this standard, Obama could propose only measures that are in the Republican Party’s platform — which obviously would defeat the purpose of being elected president as a progressive Democrat in the first place.

* The meme that won’t die: Right, right, Obama’s new jobs and deficit approach is about nothing more than playing to the base. Actually, that isn’t how the White House views things at all.

* Republicans heart clean energy stimulus money: A barn-burner in the New York Times about Republicans who are chastizing the Obama administration for trying to stimulate new jobs with Federally-funded clean energy projects — even as they seek such Federal money themselves.

* Are American businesses overregulated? ABC News probes the claim and concludes: Not so much.

* Yes, DADT is dead, but: Jonathan Capehart explains why the lingering Defense of Marriage Act means that for gay service members, the “journey is still not complete.”

* And the reality check of the day: Plum Line alum Adam Serwer has a good read on how “the fight for equality in the military is nowhere near finished.”

What else is happening?

By  |  09:00 AM ET, 09/20/2011

 
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