The Washington Post

Time for Obama to be feared by the Tea Party

Ruth Marcus runs down all the opportunities Obama will have to take a stand.

The coming crisis points are manifold. The current spending deal — the one reached on the brink of government shutdown — expires in September. Extended unemployment benefits run out at the end of the year. The temporary cut in the payroll tax expires.

I like the way Marcus described the harrowing drama of the last few weeks. She decried it as part of the new normal here in Washington: “endless rounds of legislative carjacking” where “]o]ne side wanted the car, had a gun and wasn’t afraid — certainly not afraid enough — to use it. The other had a child in the back seat.”

How perfect is that imagery? The Tea Party certainly wasn’t afraid to force the country into default. That it got its way in the debt deal will no doubt embolden it to push Obama into more compromising positions that don’t reflect the will of the people. If they try it, Obama must introduce their “carjacker” to his “Keyser Söze.”

If you’ve seen the brilliant movie “The Usual Suspects,” you know who this diabolical character is and what he did to gain mythical status. Suffice it to say that Söze so out-crazied the crazies that he became a person not to be messed with — a symbol of fear and grudging respect.

In the coming fights over the next budget, unemployment benefits and payroll tax cuts, I want Obama to show the Republican Party in general and the Tea Party in particular that he isn’t afraid to out-crazy the crazies. If that means vetoing bills, taking the fight to individual districts, shutting down the government, so be it.

Of course, the expiration of the extension of the Bush tax cuts in December 2012 will be a major flash point and may require the president to take on his party. As Ezra Klein correctly points out, “[t]o govern responsibly, Democrats cannot simply raise taxes on the rich and call it a day.” Hopefully, by the time that fight is upon us, the folks at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue will have learned that he is not someone to be messed with.

More from PostOpinions:

Milbank: From Tea Party patriot to party man

Meyerson: Why Obama won’t face a primary challenge

Zakaria: Yes, let’s cut defense spending

Editorial: George Allen embraces GOP extremes

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.


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