Sequester Showdown: The President Takes Charge

obama meets congressional leaders

White House Photo: Pete Souza

Politically, March came in as a lion! It wasn’t a blustering, winter-wind yowling lion, clawing, charging or flailing indiscriminately at everything in it’s way. Rather, it was a strong, confident and an assured lion who took the White House press room podium on March 1. The lion was, of course, our President, Barack Hussein Obama. 

Washington DC is the playground of politicians. When you arrive there, as an elected official, you better be able to play the game of politics. And, if you’re the President, part of being Presidential is that you will play the game more determined, more successfully and more persuasively than anyone else.

During his March 1 press conference, we observed a President who was relaxed, informed, logical and convincing. He easily tamed the national correspondents — seasoned provocateurs — who tried their best to make him say something that would sound unreasonable and inflammatory. The President didn’t take the bait and, in fact, tossed it right back to the questioner.

In a convincing conversational tone, the President patiently laid-out and explained his thinking and the mechanics of what the sequester was about. He accomplished this with clear persuasive language and in a warm business-like manner, a wonderful change from politician’s usual Washington gobbledygook.

He left no doubt that the sequester was not good. He explained how political gamesmanship got the country to this point while expressing his disappointment that Congress was unable to cooperate, negotiate or be forthcoming with him.

Conservatives were up early on March 1, ahead of the President’s 9:00am PST press conference, to drive home their anti-Obama talking points. At 5:00am PST on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” host Joe Scarborough tried to make the conservative case that the President was only interested in gaining political points when dealing with the latest politically manufactured crisis. As Joe was talking, two of his guests, Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist, and Richard Wolff, award-winning journalist and political analyst for MSNBC, began good-naturedly coughing and clearing their throats as it became more and more evident that even Scarborough, a conservative-moderate-in-sheep’s-clothing, began blustering and sputtering as he realized that these talking point would be unable to politically checkmate the President.

During the press conference, the President enunciated his desire for a balanced approach to the nation’s problems. An approach that included enhanced revenue, smart cuts in spending and supportive changes to entitlements. His desire was met with the Republican mantras of “no new taxes” and cutting entitlements which in the past meant vouchers for Medicare and the scuttling of Social Security in order to “save it.” The President did not draw any lines in the sand or indulge in recriminations. He was forward looking, laying out his plan and procedures for the American people to evaluate.

The President gave credit to Congress for acting in a non-partisan way in passing the Violence Against Women Act earlier in the week. He also noted that earlier this year the House had passed a Senate bill protecting most Americans from an income tax hike, instead of letting the country go over the so-called fiscal cliff. At that time the President said, “Washington should strive to address these remaining fiscal issues with a little bit less drama, a little less brinksmanship, [so as to] not scare the heck out of folks quite as much.”

This time, however, it appears that there was no non-partisan way to avoid the sequester. Supposedly, nobody wants the sequester. But, that’s the way politics thrives and is played. Everyone wants adults running the country. Washington is the center of political power, perhaps that makes it the logical center for a three-ring political circus.

carl matthes

The President, with his 2012 election triumph, his January success at making permanent the Bush administration’s tax cuts while raising rates on the wealthiest Americans and his approval rating at over 50%, now occupies the center ring of Washington politics. A center he is successfully beginning to control.

As the old saying, “March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb,” embodies, “We can only hope that if March starts off cold and stormy it will end warm and sunny, but the key word is hope.” As we know, “hope” is a  word closely associated with the President. A President who is truly becoming “The Lion King!”

Carl Matthes

Friday, 1 March 2013

Published by the LA Progressive on March 1, 2013
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About Carl Matthes

Carl Matthes is a native of Los Angeles and has lived in Eagle Rock for 45 years. He is the current president of UGLA, Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a grassroots organization in Northeast Los Angeles which provides a support system for gay men and lesbians and education for individuals and the community-at-large on the true nature of homosexuality. He is a former columnist and a current advisor to the Lesbian News, the oldest lesbian publication in America, which is owned and published by his sister, Ella. He was editor of the GLAAD/LA (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) newsletter, a former GLAAD National Board member and served as a GLAAD/LA representative on the LGBT/LAPD Advisory Board. Carl has also been a Board member of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

In July, 2008, Carl was legally married to Carl Johnson, his partner of 45 years, by Los Angels City Councilmember Jose Huizar. It was a unique gay/lesbian double ceremony as Carl's sister Ella and her partner Gladi were also married by Jose.