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First Thoughts: You’ve gotta know when to hold’em…

Written By Unknown on December 07, 2010 | 6:13 AM

First Read from NBC News

First Thoughts: You've gotta know when to hold'em…

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg

*** You've gotta know when to hold'em… : As former Bush 43 Chief of Staff Andy Card once quipped, you never roll out a policy proposal in August because no one is paying attention. Similarly, you probably don't pick a legislative fight to make a larger political point during the December holiday season. Last night, President Obama announced the framework of a compromise that would extend the Bush tax cuts for all income levels in exchange for a 13-month extension of jobless benefits, as well as a payroll-tax holiday. "Sympathetic as I am to those who prefer a fight over compromise, as much as the political wisdom may dictate fighting over solving problems, it would be the wrong thing to do," Obama said. "The American people didn't send us here to wage symbolic battles or win symbolic victories." There are plenty of ways to look at this -- pick your term – compromise/pragmatism/retreat/capitulation.

*** Know when to fold'em… : The White House knew that they were holding a weak hand. With all the tax cuts set to expire at the end of this month, and with Republicans set to control the House and have extra Senate seats in January, Dems could have picked a fight. But if that happened, it would have likely meant that tax rates would go up in this struggling economy, creating havoc on Wall Street and in biz community; that there would be almost no chance to pass New START and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" during the lame duck; and that there would be little chance of the next Congress being able to clear jobless benefits and even a payroll-tax holiday to stimulate the economy. You pick a political fight when the public is paying attention – and when you think you can win.

*** And know when to fight'em: The other way to look at this is that the Obama White House just doesn't know how to fight and play political hardball. We recently heard this frustration from an advocate of comprehensive immigration reform, who wishes that the White House would fight on this issue to put Republicans in a box with Latino voters. "They just didn't want to play politics in the past two years," this advocate said. "I hope they know that didn't work out for them." Make no mistake: Obama has to show some spine once John Boehner controls the gavel in the House. Maybe it comes in the State of the Union; maybe afterward. Yet we'll re-raise our question from yesterday: For congressional Dems who want the president to fight on the Bush tax cuts, where were their spines during the spring and the summer, when THEY had a stronger hand to play? They were the ones who decided to punt on the issue until after the midterms. And question to progressive blogosphere: Why are you directing so much anger at the president when it's your congressional leaders who let you down?

*** What happens in 2012? The spin we're hearing from the White House is that they want to re-litigate the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy heading into the re-election in 2012. If Obama wins re-election, they believe, that will serve as a mandate to get rid of those tax cuts once and for all. (However, critics will likely point out that Obama also got that mandate after 2008.) But imagine this: What if Obama used his State of the Union address to call for comprehensive tax-code overhaul -- like the deficit-reduction commission proposed -- to be implemented between now and 2012? That would end the Bush tax cuts and also serve as a realistic accomplishment that a Democratic White House and a GOP-controlled House could achieve. And speaking of deficit reduction, this whole deal adds approximately $1 trillion to the deficit -- $1 trillion that the GOP will now partly own. That has the potential to compel Republicans to become serious partners in deficit reduction for 2011-2012. Not to mix our poker-chess metaphors, but if the president is playing chess, then tax reform seems to be the most logical long-term policy fight to have, no?

*** Can the White House (and Biden) convince skeptical Dems? But before we truly begin to map out how this deal might impact 2011 and 2012, it first has to pass. And congressional Dems aren't yet sold. The Washington Post: "The agreement has yet to win the support of Democratic leaders in either chamber, and senior aides said the White House will need significant Republican support to push the package through Congress." So enter Vice President Biden, who heads to Capitol Hill to attend the Senate Democratic Caucus lunch at 1:30 pm ET. One particular Democratic is the deal on the estate tax, which would impose a 35% tax on individuals' estates worth more than $5 million. In fact, Obama addressed this in his statement yesterday. "The Republicans have asked for more generous treatment of the estate tax than I think is wise or warranted. But we have insisted that that will be temporary." http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23769:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&

*** Can Boehner and McConnell also make sure their troops sign on? But Obama and Biden aren't the only ones who will need to do some convincing. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell will, too. The Republicans can't afford many defections here, and it will serve as a test of their leadership skills -- and also a test of which House and Senate Republicans will never support anything that has the president's name on it. The reason: This is the best deal Republicans will probably ever get from Obama.

*** Can the liberal blogosphere ever be happy when their party is in charge? The liberal disappointment -- and even anger -- over the deal is both surprising and unsurprising. It's surprising because this deal has been telegraphed for weeks, and because it does include some serious stimulus (in the jobless benefits and payroll-tax holiday). But it's also unsurprising because the liberal blogosphere -- which came of age during the Bush years -- has yet to embrace the trade-offs and compromises that are sometimes necessary when they're the governing party. This is probably true for both liberal and conservative bloggers: It's a lot more fun to be the opposition party.

*** Condi backs New START: All living GOP secretaries of state are now supporting the New START treaty, with Condi Rice publishing a Wall Street Journal op-ed calling for the treaty's ratification with caveats. http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=2376A:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
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OBAMA AGENDA: The details and the reaction
The Washington Post on the details of yesterday's tentative tax-cut agreement. It would "preserve George W. Bush administration tax breaks for families at all income levels for two years, extend emergency jobless benefits through 2011 and cut payroll taxes by 2 percent for every American worker through the end of next year… The deal would extend a college tuition tax credit and other breaks for middle-class families that were due to expire New Year's Eve. And it would revive the inheritance tax after a year-long lapse, imposing a 35 percent rate on estates worth more than $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples." http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23769:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
The New York Times: "The deal appeared to resolve the first major standoff since the midterm elections between the White House and newly empowered Republicans on Capitol Hill. But it also highlighted the strains Mr. Obama faces in his own party as he navigates between a desire to get things done and a retreat from his own positions and the principles of many liberals." http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=2376E:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
"Vice President Biden will go to Capitol Hill Tuesday to sell Democrats on the tentative deal President Obama struck with congressional Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years," The Hill notes. "He will attend the Senate Democratic Caucus lunch at 1:30 p.m., according to his schedule." http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=2376F:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
Here are reactions to the deal. The Boston Globe's editorial page praised Obama for taking the "best real option." "[T]he deal with Republicans announced by President Obama yesterday is clearly preferable to no action, which is what would happen if Democrats simply held firm and Republicans continued to filibuster any new bills… At this moment, in a lame-duck, holiday-season session of Congress, it would be unrealistic to expect even someone with the persuasive powers of Ronald Reagan or Joan of Arc to rally the public sufficiently to get Senate Republicans to give up their filibuster. Thus, Obama's choice is either to stand on principle or to accept something less than what he wants. He has sensibly chosen the latter option."
More: "If given a choice between a Washington showdown that prevents all action until the next Congress, and a half-a-loaf compromise with some clear benefits, most Americans would choose the latter. … Obama is acting in the national interest, if not necessarily pleasing his party's faithful." http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23770:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
The New York Times' editorial page, though, isn't a fan. "President Obama's deal with the Republicans to extend all the Bush-era income tax cuts is a win for the Republicans and their strategy of obstructionism and a disappointing retreat by the White House." http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23771:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
The conservative New York Post editorial jabs a thumb in the eye of liberals: "With the deal President Obama announced yesterday to avoid the tax hikes set for January, Americans may be about to reap the first big dividend of last month's voting. Elections do in fact have consequences." And it says these tax cuts aren't enough: "As even Obama and some other Dems understood, any kind of tax hike would clobber the already weak economy. That's a big admission by Bam & Co. that taxes thwart growth. But if they admit that, why not make current rates permanent, rather than freezing them for a mere two years?" http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23772:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
The New York Daily News' headline on the tax cut deal: "Some Democrats are outraged as President Obama, GOP cut deals for tax cuts, jobless benefits." http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23773:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
The Hill notes that some liberals think Obama's concession on the tax cuts imperils him in 2012. "This is only a tough fight [now] because Americans have lost faith that President Obama is fighting for their economic futures," said Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist and former official with the Clinton administration… "If by 2012 the president can convince voters of his commitment to helping them reclaim the American Dream, they'll support denying tax cuts for the wealthy that put us $700 billion in more debt to China." And: "Privately, both White House and Republican aides say they would love to have a fight over the high-end tax cuts as a central 2012 campaign issue." http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23774:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
Iran's foreign minister apparently ignored Secretary of State Clinton when she tried to get his attention at a conference. http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23775:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
"The legal fight over California's gay marriage ban went before a federal appeals court yesterday in a hearing that reached a nationwide TV audience eager for a final decision on whether the measure violates the US Constitution," AP writes. http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23776:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
The case for Democrats to push immigration reform? "The government provided new estimates yesterday showing the US population grew to somewhere between roughly 306 million and 313 million over the last decade, acknowledging uncertainty because of rapid shifts in immigration," AP writes, adding, "In 2000, Hispanics made up 17 percent of the US population under age 20. They now represent somewhere between 22 to 25 percent of that age group." http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23777:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
"Chicago election officials began sifting through hundreds of petition challenges to candidates in the citywide election, including more than 30 objections to Emanuel's candidacy," AP writes, adding, "Meanwhile, the businessman who has been renting Emanuel's home in Chicago while Emanuel worked in Washington dropped his competing bid for mayor, citing the financial pressures of a campaign." http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23778:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&

CONGRESS: Reid's changes, Pelosi's status quo
"It's not often that you hear any House Democrat holding up Harry Reid, of all people, as a model," Roll Call writes. "But that's what some House Democrats are doing privately as they grumble that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has avoided any significant Caucus shake-ups since Democrats suffered historic losses in the midterm elections." http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23779:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
Roll Call looks at the difficult task of selling the tax deal to Democrats on the Hill. http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=2377A:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
Will Bernie Sanders filibuster the tax deal? He told MSNBC's Ed Schultz, "I've got to tell you, I will do whatever I can to see that 60 votes are not acquired to pass this piece of legislation." http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=2377B:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
It's not just liberals who are upset. The Hill: "The horse-trading has attracted strong criticism from liberals, but unrest is building on the right. Republican leaders have long stressed that any extension of unemployment benefits should be offset with spending cuts. However, some newly elected House GOP members claim the benefits have gone on for too long and need to be halted." http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=2377C:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&

GOP WATCH: Christie's bullying act getting old?
The Newark Star-Ledger's editorial headline: "Christie's bully act getting old."
"Nearly a year after he was elected, we wonder: Where's the maturity?" the paper writes. Here's why: "The latest display of contempt for anyone who disagrees with him was on display at a town hall meeting Friday in Parsippany. Keith Chaudruc, of Madison, asked the governor how he could sign off on a tax cut for the rich while lunch-pail stiffs were hit with painful increases like transit fare hikes. After some give and take, Christie invited Chaudruc to the stage for 'a conversation.' Chaudruc, reluctant to be part of another Christie YouTube moment, was escorted to the stage by a state trooper. Chaudruc never got another word in. Twice Chaudruc's size, Christie crowded his personal space, raised his voice and lectured him on economics with a wagging finger. Each time Chaudruc tried to make a point, Christie cut him off. When Christie finished, Chaudruc motioned for the microphone. This was, after all, a 'conversation.' Christie shooed him away and a trooper herded Chaudruc off stage."
More: "By bullying a citizen, hogging the microphone and condescendingly dismissing him, Christie was the rude one. But it's nothing new. Christie has turned state politics into one never-ending yo' mama joke… [H]is combativeness is counterproductive and breeds the kind of hate speech that plaques the nation." http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=2377D:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
Here's the YouTube of the exchange: http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=2377E:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
2012: Sununu steps down
"Robby Mook, who handled independent expenditures for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2010 cycle, is being promoted to executive director," Roll Call writes. http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=2377F:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Former governor John Sununu will not seek re-election as chairman of the state GOP, the Manchester Union-Leader reports. http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23780:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&

"The University of New Hampshire will officially honor out-going U.S. Senator Judd Gregg next week for all of the federal money he was able to secure for the state's flagship university during his tenure," WMUR writes. "Of the state's four person delegation to Washington, only Democratic U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen hasn't pledged to not seek earmarks." http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23781:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
2010: Sore loser?
ALASKA: Joe Miller has an op-ed in the Washington Times criticizing Lisa Murkowski on earmarks, calling the practice "corrupt" -- and he hits the Native Alaskan community and even Ted Stevens. "Lisa Murkowski proved this past week that she has learned nothing from the message of the midterm elections. The main issues that drove people to the polls and created a Republican landslide were the beliefs that our nation is on the wrong track and that government spending has gotten completely out of control," Miller writes. http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23782:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
(Of course, that's not what drove them to the polls in the general election in Alaska to vote for a write-in candidate over Miller. Just sayin'…)
Why is Miller keeping up the fight? Might it be all about the money? "Joe Miller is raising money like it is going out of style," The State Column writes. "The Republican U.S. Senate candidate has reported raising nearly $250,000 since Election Day. The Miller campaigned reported that it has raised an additional $241,000 since last month's Alaska Senate election." http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23783:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&
MINNESOTA: "The Minnesota GOP is punishing two former governors and a former U-S senator for backing Independence party candidate, Tom Horner, in the governor's race," local Fox affiliate KEYC reports. "At a meeting this weekend, party leaders voted to bar 18 republicans from Party activities for two years, including the 2012 Republican National convention." http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23784:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&

Former Minnesota Gov. Al Quie "laughed" when he found he had been banned from the state Republican Party, Minnesota Public Radio writes. "I've got a long history," Quie said. "My grandfather supported Lincoln. That's the first time the Republican Party won the presidency!'" http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23785:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&

NEW YORK: NY-1: Newsday wonders if Randy Altschuler (R) is running for 2012 already. He trails incumbent Tim Bishop (D) by about 270 votes (depending on which campaign you ask). http://broadcaster.msnbc.msn.com/t?ctl=23786:B2CA5A050EF65E320DDFD1014F400C60&

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