Friday, August 8, 2014

Entering the very center of the conflict

I always find it interesting when pundits admit that they don't understand President Obama. Today that honor goes to Brendan Nyhan. He doesn't get why the President would make sweeping changes to our immigration policy prior to the midterm election. Nyhan sees this as risking a backlash from the more conservative older white voters who tend to show up to the polls.

Of course one of the main reasons President Obama would do this is because its exactly what he promised Speaker Boehner he would do back in April if the House failed to pass immigration reform. The President is a man of his word.

But I think what trips up folks like Nyhan is the narrative that has developed about how President Obama is cautious and restrained. It clouds their judgement. Its true that the President is thoughtful and tends to avoid being reactive. But that doesn't make him risk averse. One only has to look at a few examples to disabuse that notion.

For example, there was the time he went against the advice of most of his National Security Team and sent a Seal Team into the compound at Abbattobad to get Osama bin Laden. Or the time he went against the advice of most of his staff to continue to work on getting comprehensive health care reform after Scott Brown was elected to Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. Or that wonderful moment in 2010 when he went to the House Republican Caucus meeting to talk directly to his opponents. But perhaps my favorite was the time he gave the commencement address at Notre Dame after fierce protests from some students over his position on stem cell research and abortion...and focused his remarks on stem cell research and abortion.

Those are all examples of President Obama following the Aikido Way:
1] We must maintain our own balance while taking theirs
2] We must react fearlessly
3] We must enter into the very center of the conflict
4] We must understand our opponent's intentions in order to achieve resolution
As Republicans ramp up their accusations of dictatorial tyranny and fear-mongering about immigrants, it should surprise no one that the President would react fearlessly and enter into the very center of that conflict.


  1. Maybe Obama shares my contempt for bigots. He might enjoy antagonizing them. Maybe the pundits should start looking a little past tomorrow. This is all long game. The old conservatives are going to be upset no matter what the President does. He might as well give them some reason besides being President. Why should Obama or anyone be afraid of old conservatives at this point? Any Democrat that's running for office this year worrying about old conservative voting power is a liability and needs to find some damn courage.


  2. He's not risk-averse; he just wants to understand the risks before he makes the decision. He understands what he's walking into. A risk-averse person does not become the first black president.

  3. Or the time when he didn't flinch during the government shut-down. Or the time he didn't flinch when the Rs threatened to default on the full faith and credit of the United States of America. Or the time he didn't listen to his advisers about Syria and got all the declared Chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction destroyed w/o firing a shot.