COMMENTARY | Pundits and news analysts, especially those from the liberal stripe, are praising President Barack Obama for "finally picking a fight with the Republicans." To me, they have short memories.
Obama indeed has become more outspoken and assertive lately, as demonstrated with his moves to bypass a still-recessed Congress with appointments to a top consumer protection post and to the National Labor Relations Board, but observers who claim he compromised too much in the past seem to forget the circumstances.
The first time Obama supposedly "caved" was in December 2010, a month after Republicans and the Tea Party had rousted Democrats in the mid-term elections. Obama desperately saw a need to renew and ratify the long-established Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) to monitor and inspect nuclear weapons that had been left unattended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Republicans held START hostage to their demand for continuation of extended upper-class tax cuts first adopted under George W. Bush. Obama, for the sake of national security and forestalling Armageddon, found no choice but to acquiesce. I, for one, am grateful he compromised.
It's ironic, nowadays, that Republicans accuse Obama of not doing enough to thwart Iran's pursuit of nukes. How would they feel without START, if Iran had potential access to all of those neglected warheads close to its border?
The second supposed Obama cave-in was last summer, when the debt ceiling loomed. The GOP seemed fully prepared to allow U.S. credit to fail for the first time in history. There were predictions of economic calamity. Again, I'm glad Obama compromised.
Currently, Republicans have no similar vital issue similar to START or the debt ceiling that they can hold over Obama's head. That's the reason he's acting more boldly. It's not a sudden infusion of courage. Barack Obama always has possessed courage, and thankfully, common sense.