It's close to a sure bet that a social gathering during the holiday season will result in a confrontation with a distant relative, in-law, or friend of a friend who feels compelled to share with any and all their worldview and why they know that the US is going to hell in a handbasket and that it all started on January 21, 2009, around 1pm, roughly a half hour after Barack Obama was sworn in to start his first term as President.
If you are lucky enough to run into a true conservative, great … one can discuss the proper roles of government in a reasonably civil way. I've watched Ron Paul debate liberal economist Paul Krugman and I thought it was enlightening and entertaining. Neither is a hater or a cheap shot artist, and both are relatively cheerful and respectful of people with opposing point of views.
There are, unfortunately, very few principled conservatives around these days. One is more likely to run into a more or less unhinged "I want my country back" hater.
I had the dubious pleasure of such an encounter quite recently. Allow me to leave with you a few thoughts on typical lines of attack by the agitated and suggest avenues of response.
Charge: Obama is not leading on the fiscal cliff. He hasn't put a plan on the table. He's still campaigning. He should be meeting with Boehner.
Response: Wrong. Wrong. Right. Wrong.
Obama has stated clearly what he wants in the way of revenue. He wants to raise the rate from 35% to 39.6% on income over $250,000 per year. In other words, if you have taxable income of $250,000, your taxes will go up by zero dollars (like zip, nada, bupkes). If your taxable income is $280,000, your annual tax liability would increase by $1,380 (4.6% of $30,000), a sustainable burden for someone making $100,000 per year more than a four-star general.
Second, Obama proposes that those who have income over $1 million pay a tax rate of 30%. This proposal is designed to amend the provisions of the tax laws that allow the ultra wealthy who make money from money to pay taxes at 15%, while those who make money from labor (construction workers, cops, heart surgeons) pay taxes at a rate twice that.
The mega-wealthy who make money from money are in John Boehner's ear, demanding that their protected status be maintained. This pressure causes Boehner and other Republicans to go around and babble inanities about "not taxing the job creators".
Obama has put the specifics of his plans for increased revenues on the table. The Republicans have not put their specifics for spending cuts on the table. It's incumbent on them to do so, and it's absolutely correct for Obama to keep up public advocacy for his point of view.
The bottom line is that the house Republicans are in a box. What they want will not stand the light of day. Their only option is to keep it fuzzy and demand that negotiations go behind closed doors. The President benefits from public involvement. After the Republicans feel a little more heat, they will see the light.
STATUS QUO ELECTION
Charge: The President does not have a mandate. It was a "status quo" election. It's incumbent on the President to meet Republicans halfway. This is the position Boehner took in his recent letter to the President.
Response: What are you smoking?
The Republicans lost: 8 seats in the House; 25 of 33 contested Senate seats; and the Presidential race by 4.5 million votes. The President campaigned on shared sacrifice. He campaigned on increasing the tax rates on the wealthiest 2% to Clinton-era rates. His position prevailed.
End of story.
Charge: The administration failed in its duty to protect the US Consultate in Benghazi, and through UN Ambassador Susan Rice, has given an inaccurate account of what transpired.
Response: Whatever shortcomings there might have been in the administration's security precautions for Benghazi, they pale in comparison to the negligence of Ronald Reagan in protecting our embassy in Beirut, and four months later, the Marine Barracks, also in Beirut, where a total of 300 lives were lost. The misfeasance and malfeasance of George W. Bush in the lead up to September 11 is, of course, in a class by itself.
Regarding the role of Susan Rice, she gave accurate information that was made available to her at the time she gave it, while protecting details that would alert suspected perpetrators and adversely affect efforts to bring them to justice. That's her job.
There's no there there.
OBAMA THE RADICAL
Charge: Obama is a dangerous radical outside the mainstream of American political thought who was influenced by his youth in Muslim Indonesia.
Response: It is a fact that Obama encountered radical influences in Indonesia. Specifically, he attended St. Francis of Assisi Catholic school for two years. St. Francis, of course, was a radical environmentalist way before it was cool (thirteenth century), loved animals, and gave all his possessions to the poor. He and his followers also wore sandals, and the record is clear that Obama himself has worn sandals. Enough said.
Charge: The only reason Obama won was because of massive voter fraud. (Somebody actually said this to me.)
Response: Right after the election, I was in Maine. The story in the local papers was all about Charlie Webster, the Republican state chairman, who alleged that hundreds of black voters showed up in rural Maine towns where "nobody in town knows anybody that's black" and voted. Mr. Webster was unable to identify any particular Maine town in which this phenomenon occurred, nor could he produce any photographic evidence to support his claim. Much to the relief of his colleagues in the Republican party, Mr. Webster resigned shortly after making the claim, and nobody in the State Republican party is pursuing the matter.
Interestingly, Obama did very well in a number of states with a very low percentage of African American voters, while losing states with a very high percentage with a high percentage of African American voters. For example, Obama won Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa, and Oregon, all of which have an African American population of under 3%. He lost Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Louisiana, all of which have an African American population of over 25%.
Seriously, if you've reached the point in the conversation where you are discussing voter fraud as the reason for Obama's win, you've already devoted far too much time to the engagement. At this point, you might want to say you have to go out and check your car's tire pressure, or, my favorite, you've got to go home and put new stickers on your notebooks.
I will post again on Wednesday, January 2, 2013 and, for the time being, I will post on the first Wednesday of each month.
Comments are welcome at tomc[at]wednesdayswars[dot]com. Name and town if you wish to opine. Comments will be addressed in subsequent posts.