Obama’s dilemma: No compromise means no change—By Charles Hallman, Staff writer



The Republicans. The Tea Party. Even Black folk. All are critical — some harsher than others — of President Barack Obama’s job performance to date. Many see such criticism as beyond partisan politics. Given the economic mess and political gridlock that currently exist, others call it unfair.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in August told the 2011 National Association of Black Journalists convention in Philadelphia that he is “extremely proud” of what the Obama administration has done in addressing several key criminal justice issues. He boasted that the Justice Department was “revitalized” after increased funding during Obama’s first two years in office.

“We take our responsibility seriously,” Holder pointed out.

The Republicans “have a very different view” of America than President Obama, noted White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer during a very intense Q & A at the Netroots Nation national conference in Minneapolis in June. Many progressives, a key voting bloc in 2008, have expressed their disappointment in Obama. They feel that he either has backed off or not addressed many of their issues, such as eliminating the Bush tax cuts, which many see as mostly benefiting the rich.

“There [was] a bill that only extended the middle-class tax cuts [that] would not have passed the U.S. Senate,” explained Pfeiffer. “This president believes that it would not have been the right thing to do — not the progressive thing to do — to give a massive tax increase to the middle-class and working Americans, simply to make a point about the Bush tax cuts. Those were [his] only two options.”

Pfeiffer defended his boss’s record to date: “We got a historical number of things done in the first two and a half years” of the president’s term, including passage of the stimulus and healthcare bills.

In answering charges that President Obama compromises too much, Pfeiffer points out, “There will not be a law that gets to the President’s desk between now and 2012 that does not have some measure of Republican support. That’s the nature of Washington right now. But refusing to compromise will mean that nothing gets done.”

But the communications director quickly added, “We are going to have a lot of battles in Congress as we fight to make sure that the Republican vision of this country does not become reality. He [Obama)] is 100 percent opposed to anything the Republicans want to do.

“There is a sustained effort [by the GOP] to undo the progress we’ve done” both at the state and federal levels, added Pfeiffer.

Some of the criticism leveled at Obama by Black people is based on unrealistic expectations, says Color of Change.org founder James Rucker. “You had Black folk who thought, ‘We have a ‘brotha’ in the White House so he is going to change this and change that,” he says. “I think there are some ways in which Obama has not been the strongest leader, and some Black folk have realized that as have some progressive folk.

“There are things that he’s done that are great,” continues Rucker, “but I think the White House has had a hard time messaging and marketing the things it has done, so they don’t get credit for it.”

When asked why the White House, for example, hasn’t use the Black Press more to help get the administration’s message out to Obama’s key constituents, Pfeiffer told the MSR, “We will try to do better.” Shortly after his response, the MSR began receiving regular briefings and additional information from the White House.

“I have a problem on the ‘He hasn’t done anything for Black people’ [criticism],” admits Zerlina Maxwell, a staff writer and political analyst for the The Loop 21. “[Obama] is not the president of Black people but the president of everyone.”

On the current economic problems and President Obama’s attempts to help turn things around, “If we could wave a magic wand to fix it, we would do it,” concluded Pfeiffer, adding that the president believes that more investment in education and infrastructure projects are key ways “to grow this economy.”


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.