A long, long time ago, I actually helped coach a future Heisman Trophy winner in high school football. USC's Charles White, who is still the Pac-10's all-time-leader in rushing yards some 30 years later, was in his first year of high school ball and wasn't even on the varsity team. Clearly far more talented than any of his "B" squad teammates, he began showing signs of heading down the wrong path. He began grousing about a missed blocking assignment here or less-than-perfect field conditions there.
Finally, one day, using my patented kid-gloves approach, I took him aside and suggested that he do the thumbs test. When asked what exactly that entailed, I explained, "You take your thumbs and put them in the waistband of (whatever apparel you might be wearing below your navel). Then, you look down in there. If there's something there, you're a guy, and you should act accordingly."
Over the past three decades, I probably should have learned that some would consider that remark sexist or some other -ist, but, God help me, if I were in the same room with the current president of the United States—who is currently down on his knees, begging for the right wing to forgive him for ever having considered a progressive agenda—I would make the exact same suggestion. And while I know that the president prefers basketball to football, I trust that he would understand this gridiron analogy: It's not that he doesn't have any blocking in front of him, and no playing surface is ever perfect. He's just afraid to take a hit.
Count me among the many Democrats who are firmly in the dis- category—as in disillusioned, disappointed or even disgusted over his complete surrender on the tax issue. It's as though after two years of a stumbling occupancy in the Oval Office in which he somehow managed to appear arrogant and weak at the same time, he decided to look up the word "compromise" on some wiki-dictionary and mistakenly got the definition for "capitulation" instead.
A solid majority of Americans favor extending the Bush tax cuts for the poor and middle class, and letting them expire for people who make more than $250,000 a year (which, despite the protestations of some, certainly qualifies somebody as rich). A compromise, Mr. President, would have been to allow the tax cut to remain in place for the first $250,000 of a rich person's income, and then tax the rest at a higher rate.
After having allowed the petulant Republicans to get away with two years of, "No!" "Hell no!" and "Yo mama!" he finally gets an issue and a point in time that come together to scream, "Take a stand!" and he backs off. I guess he believes that if he gives up his lunch money to Jon Kyl and the other bullies, maybe they'll stop picking on him. We all know how that scenario plays out, oh, 100 percent of the time.
With the Bush tax cuts about to expire, Congress did an extraordinary job of fiddling around until the last minute. (This, too, was in the president's favor.) With much of the country hurting, thanks in large part to the excesses of a greedy few for whom no amount of money is ever enough and no means of acquiring such wealth is ever wrong, the Republicans were taking the untenable position of wanting to give even more money to the rich.
In these horrible economic times, the poor are getting demonstrably poorer; the middle class is shrinking; and the rich are getting fabulously richer. And yet, somehow, the GOP comes down on the side of the rich. Their ridiculously lame argument is that the rich graciously deign to grace us with some of their trickle-down largesse, and the rest of us should all be grateful for their having done so.
The rich use their money to invest in business, which leads to job creation, or so the story goes. It's easier to believe that there exists a bag of magic beans. Over the past decade, the rich have used favorable tax policies (and really, when do tax policies not favor the rich?) to accumulate staggering amounts of money.
It all came crashing down 27 months ago, and believe me, it didn't land on the heads of the wealthy. They just took to the sidelines, sitting on their fortunes and telling Republican leaders that they would need even more money before they would even think about opening their vaults.
With this as a backdrop, the Republicans stuck to their guns, hoping that maybe you can fool all of the people all of the time. It's as though the GOP was tossing the beleaguered president a beach-ball-size floater pitch that he could knock out of the park, and instead, he took it for a called strike three.
I swear, I thought President Obama was going to go all Jean-Luc Picard and say, "We've made too many compromises already, too many retreats. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!"
Instead, we get, "Gee whiz, that's a peachy keen idea."
Sadly, I think that the president sincerely believes that he's showing off his political instincts and footwork, when, in fact, this guy couldn't outmaneuver a chair if it was bolted to the floor.