Obama Channels Pelosi in Polarizing the Country

"Yes we can" has turned into "Oh no you won't."

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By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Most folks I know like Barack Obama. Seems like a great guy. They want him to succeed. But more and more I'm hearing how they are very, very worried about the level of spending—and the resulting debt—he's proposing. Michael Boskin, former head of the Council of Economic Advisors and an economist at Stanford, ran the numbers and wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week that Obama's spending would cost middle-class families well below the president's threshold for tax hikes upwards of $200,000 in higher taxes over the next 10 years. That's without a tax hike. Just service on the debt alone. No wonder people are concerned. That's a second mortgage for most people.

They thought we were getting Barack Obama, an Evan Bayh Democrat governing in a post-partisan era from the center, building coalitions on important issues to get things done in a fiscally responsible way. But instead we got Barack Obama, a Nancy Pelosi Democrat from the old school of big spending, big taxing, government-will-fix-it-all politics of the far left. As a result, things are getting ugly—one Republican congressman called the speaker "Tom Delay in a skirt"—as the president's budget heads to the House-Senate conference committee that has all but shut out Republicans.

Michael Gerson writes about the polarizing effect of the budget battle in Congress:

It would have been relatively easy for President Obama to divide the Republican coalition, peeling off less-partisan Republicans with genuine outreach. Many Republicans were prepared to accept short-term deficits to stimulate the economy in exchange for long-term fiscal responsibility. Obama could have focused more narrowly on resolving the financial crisis—the key to all economic recovery—and delayed his ambitions on other issues to a more realistic time. In the process, he might have gotten some Republicans to share his political risks instead of nursing grievances on the sidelines.

In the long run, Gerson argues, this divisive approach that the president is taking changes "the core of his political identity" as a moderate, no-drama unifier who was going to put all the partisan fighting of the last 16 years behind us. Instead, he's helping fuel the polarization of America, encouraging class warfare, and, at least on the budget, following Nancy Pelosi's lead and shutting out Republicans.

It seems "Yes we can" has turned into "Oh no you won't."

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