After carefully measuring their words for two years, frustrated progressives are becoming less reluctant to publicly express their disappointment concerning President Obama's unwillingness to stand up for his principles amid a strident Republican campaign to politically neuter him.
Political bullying on the part of emboldened Republicans have left liberals clamoring for push back from the Obama administration, especially in the face of GOP insistence on extending the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy and their objection to extending unemployment benefits for those in need.
This tipping point comes on the heels of GOP leaders saying they plan to target both health care and President Obama for extinction.
Extending the Bush tax cuts to the top two percent of taxpayers – individuals making more than $200,000 a year and families earning in excess of $250,000 annually – will cost $678 billion during the next decade, according to the Treasury Department. That's 2.5 times more than the cost of health care during that same period.
Progressives say it's time to draw the battle lines between Republicans' traditional protection of the rich and Democrats' concern for working men and women.
A new television ad funded by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee is titled, "Obama Promised" and urges the president: "Keep Your Promise. Fight. Don't Cave, On Tax Cuts." The ad includes a clip of candidate Barack Obama campaigning in Iowa in 2007 and saying: "We will also allow the temporary tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire."
The ad also features footage of Rep. John Boehner, the incoming House speaker, saying that he would vote for legislation that excludes the top two percent of taxpayers, if that was his only choice. Boehner quickly reversed himself, saying that the Bush tax cuts must be extended to everyone.
Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign, said of Obama: "He can keep his promise and make sure that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share of taxes. Or he can break his promise, add billions to our national debt, and leave his past supporters demoralized by caving to Republicans even when they are clearly wrong. The choice is his."
Moveon.Org, a major supporter of Obama, also made a choice to create a new ad. Titled "Obama's Back," it features a video montage of Americans urging the president not to compromise because they have his back.
On its website, the group stated, "We're aiming to raise $200,000 today for our 'Millionaire Bailout Accountability Fund.' We'll use the money for rallies and hard-hitting ads targeted at members of Congress who vote for more millionaire tax breaks while doing nothing to help struggling families."
Also on the site, under the headline, "We want Obama back," is this message: "MoveOn members have a message for President Obama: Say no to millionaire bailouts and bring back the Obama of 2008 – the smart, tough progressive who inspired millions."
President Obama has been consistent in his belief that the Bush tax cuts, set to expire at the end of the year, should not be extended to the top 2 percent of taxpayers. However, he has indicated that he is open to compromise, possibly extending the upper-end tax cuts for two or three years in order to cut a deal with Republicans.
On Saturday, Senate Republicans blocked two bills, one that would renew tax rates for individuals with income up to $250,000 and another that set a lid of $1 million, on procedural grounds.
Paul Krugman, an economist who writes for the New York Times, observed: "It's hard to escape the impression that Republicans have taken Mr. Obama's measure — that they're calling his bluff in the belief that he can be counted on to fold. And, it's also hard to escape the impression that they're right."
James Carville, a Democratic strategist, was widely-criticized several weeks ago for saying, "If Hillary gave up one of her balls and gave it to Obama, he'd have two." Carville was accused of questioning Obama's manhood.
Two years ago, Jesse Jackson was videotaped saying he wanted to do the opposite – Jackson said he wanted to extract the same body part from Obama. At the time, Jackson said he was upset with what he described as the presidential candidate "talking down to Black folks." In what he thought was an off-camera remark, Jackson said he wanted to "cut his nuts out."
Now, Courtland Malloy, a columnist for the Washington Post, has gone farther than Carville in questioning Obama's manhood.
Malloy, an African-American, wrote on November 30: "On Monday, Obama's manhood took three more hits in the headlines: From The Post's E.J. Dionne, 'Does Obama have it in him to respond to critics?' From The Post's Marc Thiessen, 'Obama administration is weak in the face of WikiLeaks.' And from Robert Kuttner in the Huffington Post, 'Backbone, Please.'"
Malloy explained, "…For a black president to apparently choose to be the Great Placator is downright embarrassing. Maureen Dowd of the New York Times calls Obama 'a 46-year-old virgin;' The Post's Kathleen Parker says he acts like the nation's 'first female president.' You know it's bad when a White woman tag team can play the dozens with a Black man and score unanswered points left and right.
"… Obama is proving himself to be a most peculiar commander in chief. Maybe another black boy will someday grow up to become president, but if he turns out to be like Obama, it'll be hard to call him a black man."
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.