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Obama tells Republicans: I’m tired of begging for cooperation

An Afghan man in Kabul watches the State of the Union speech.
REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
An Afghan man in Kabul watches a television broadcast of President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech.

President Obama’s State of the Union message captured well the evolving state of his presidency as it enters its second term.

Obama is a solid liberal. I liked the speech and agreed with many of Obama’s policy goals, which were something of a laundry list of things liberals would like to do if they had the votes in Congress. But they don’t. The federal minimum wage will not be raised to $9 an hour in the next two years. A new universal right to preschool will not be established. I don’t expect him to get much of what he asked for last night that requires congressional action.

The outline of a deal for comprehensive immigration was the only proposal that received a bipartisan standing ovation, and that is only because Republicans have made a political conversion on the issue based on the result of the last election and the  belief that they can’t win future elections without a larger portion of the growing Hispanic vote.

Other than that, the speech consisted of dozens of ideas that liberals support and conservatives oppose, ideas that cannot be attempted in today’s fiscal climate without significant additional tax increases on wealthy individuals and large corporations. Opposing those tax increases is the meaning of life for the contemporary Republican Party which, despite a very bad election showing, still controls a House majority and enough of the Senate to mount a filibuster if necessary.

The many references in Obama’s speech to bipartisanship and to the fact that some of his proposals have been supported in the past by some Republicans won’t fool anyone.

So why make this speech at this time? As I look at it, Obama was saying to the Republicans something like the following:

I spent most of my first term trying to bring you along. I moderated many of my real policy preferences and begged for cooperation. In response, you energized your base around the silly notion that I was a socialist and worse, an illegitimate president. That despicable approach worked for you in 2010, won you the House and a filibusterable minority in the Senate, which you used to waste the next two years hoping to be rid of me. But you’re not rid of me. You’re stuck with me for four more years and I’m stuck with you for at least two more, pending the midterm election.

So this is the second-term version of me I previewed in the inaugural address. I’m not really prepared to lead with my compromise proposals. I’m going to lead with my real proposals. If you reject most of them, as I assume you will, we’ll continue the public argument and see which vision the public prefers. We’ll see if the public rewards you for committing two more years, or even four more years, to gridlock.

If you don’t like that scenario, I am open to a grand bargain in which both parties will get some of what they want. But if we reach that bargain in my second term, it will have to be because you came to me in a spirit of real compromise.

Many conservatives said after the speech that Obama is in denial about the depth of the fiscal crisis and especially about the projected growth rate of entitlement spending. Obama did try to open the door a crack, claiming that:

“On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission."

The details may show that Obama’s ideas for Medicare savings come mostly at the expense of doctors and the health care industry. But to the extent that Republicans believe some of the pain has to be absorbed by future seniors, let them make that clear.

The full text of the address is here.

A couple of excerpts that seemed key or especially moving to me were:

Excerpt 1: The middle class

It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class.

It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love.

It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.

The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem. They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party. They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can. For they know that America moves forward only when we do so together; and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all.

Excerpt 2: Tax breaks

Why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks? How is that fair? How does that promote growth?

Excerpt 3: Deficit reduction

Now, most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda. But let’s be clear: deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs – that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?

Excerpt 4: Voting

We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor. When she arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours. And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say. Hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in support of her. Because Desiline is 102 years old. And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read “I Voted.”

Obama’s speech did contain several serious factual problems, some of which are detailed in this piece by AP fact-checker Calvin Woodard. For example, when Obama bragged that: “We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas," he referred to new standards that will not take full effect for 12 more years.

Rubio’s rebuttal

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was tapped for the official Republican rebuttal.

For most of his appearance, he looked good and sounded good. (Yes, it’s true, that toward the end of his speech, he developed a powerful need for a sip of water, but those who gleefully dwell on this demean only themselves.)

But when I say Rubio sounded good, I refer mostly to the tone of his voice and his youthful enthusiasm and charm. He actually made little sense. He sang the praises of Medicare and federal college-loan programs because those programs had helped him personally and his parents, but then he says: “More government isn’t going to help you get ahead. It’s going to hold you back. More government isn’t going to create more opportunities. It’s going to limit them.”

Why didn’t the government subsidized loans that enabled him to go to college hold him back? I didn’t hear his answer.

I’m not sure if Rubio meant to call Obama a socialist quite this explicitly, but he said:

“Presidents in both parties – from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan – have known that our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle class prosperity. But President Obama? He believes it’s the cause of our problems.”

In U.S. political discourse, this is the waving of the red flag.

Rand Paul

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky gave a second rebuttal, representing not the Republican Party per se but its Tea Party wing. His presentation is more coherent because he isn’t really trying to have it both ways. He is an out-of-the-closet small-government libertarian who is prepared to abolish a great many current government functions.

For starters, he favors allowing the “sequestration” spending cuts to go through. Said Paul:

Ronald Reagan said, government is not the answer to the problem, government is the problem. Tonight, the president told the nation he disagrees. President Obama believes government is the solution: More government, more taxes, more debt. What the president fails to grasp is that the American system that rewards hard work is what made America so prosperous.

Every debate in Washington is about how much to increase spending – a little or a lot. About how much to increase taxes – a little or a lot. The president does a big "woe is me" over the $1.2 trillion sequester that he endorsed and signed into law. Some Republicans are joining him. Few people understand that the sequester doesn’t even cut any spending. It just slows the rate of growth. Even with the sequester, government will grow over $7 trillion over the next decade. Only in Washington could an increase of $7 trillion in spending over a decade be called a cut.

Personally, I appreciate that Paul doesn’t sugar-coat. But his view is rooted in the belief that America’s greatness is founded on the idea that “men and women were guaranteed a chance to succeed based NOT on who your parents were but on your own initiative and desire to work.”

This pitch might have worked better when CEO’s made only 24 times as much as their average employee, as opposed to 243 times as much in 2011.

I don’t assume that Sen. Paul believes that the 243-1 ratio is all about initiative and desire to work, but it would be helpful if he would explain how he does see it.

The full Rand Paul response is here.

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Comments (27)

I find it strange that both

I find it strange that both of the rebuttals were delivered by two different parts of the Tea Party Republicans.

The level of delusion was especially striking in the Rubio (lite-T) response.

The response said (rough translation), lots of changes needed to be made, but no changes that make people unhappy would be made.

Really, now? That's the best that the party of hard-nosed "realists" could come up with?

They are instead the party of magic and myth.

The fact is that the financial situation requires both cuts and increased revenue. They hate Obama's added taxes and were all over Obama for "cutting Medicare" during the election. But that is exactly what the path to a balanced budget would look like.

Well, that is the unavoidable future.

After years of bleating about "out-of-control" spending, they need to actually come up with a real budget that outline the cuts of the extent necessary. But no, the "sequester" which does significantly cut spending is turned into "Obama's sequester" because they cannot come up with the no-pain budget that meets their own, self-imposed cut goals.

The take-away from the competing speeches?

Nothing of significance is going to happen and we will be drifting from crisis to crisis, be it budget, guns, education, on and on, thanks to a Republican party ruled by myth and magic..

Government

Government is not the problem. There is nothing magical about small government that makes it so wonderful. That's like declaring that small rocks are better than big rocks. It all depends on your application. If you're resurfacing your driveway, then yes small rocks are the way to go. But if you're building a dam across a river, then you'll want something a little larger.

The same is true with government. In some applications small is indeed better. But when you're looking at large projects or problems, such as an interstate highway system or recovering from a hurricane, then you need a large solution. Relying on church charities to take care of refugees would not have solved the Hurricane Katrina aftermath. In cases like that you need massive amount of material moved in a short amount of time and a dozen church basement ladies knitting sweaters isn't going to fill the bill.

Having volunteered in Mississippi after Katrina

I can say that people had to rely heavily on church charities, because neither FEMA nor the state of Mississippi was doing a lot for people who lost their homes and/or their jobs during the hurricane.

There was no help from the state that I could see, and the county was willing to haul away any debris that a property owner could bring to the side of the road. Having a clear lot was a prerequisite for receiving a FEMA trailer, so many of the volunteers from the joint Lutheran-Episcopal relief center where I volunteered were engaged in clearing lots for people who were physically unable to do so themselves or who couldn't afford to hire anyone. Nearly six months after what everyone called "the Storm," people were still living in their cars and relying on bottled water and food provided by the church charities, especially since the hotels, restaurants, resorts, and fishing fleets that had provided their livelihoods were all in ruins.

If you've seen what tornado damage looks like, imagine an 80-mile strip of tornado damage stretching west to east along the shore to a mile or two inland. That's what the Mississippi Gulf Coast looked like: buildings that looked as if they had been bombed, clothing and furniture stuck in trees, boats an impossible distance inland. The homes of the affluent had already been repaired, but for everyone else, it was like the aftermath of a war.

This was during the height of the Iraq War, and it made me angry that the Bush administration was wasting a little over a billion dollars a week fighting an illegal and unnecessary war while some of our own people were suffering from one of the worst natural disasters in recent history.

The religious charities did the best they could, but they were no match for the immense task.

This captures the spirit of the speech

I think he was saying, "come to the table with me or I will go to the public."

And I hope he will stay on the hustings. He is so strong there.

Let's have the voters decide what agenda we want and who we need in 2014 to make that happen.

Exactly!

Enter, stage right: Mr. Karl Rove.

Begging?

Seriously, was he begging when they excluded Republicans from the closed door meetings on Obamacare? Was he begging when he used executive privilege? My way or the highway, is hardly considered begging. Tyrants don't beg, they do whatever they want.

Myth and legend

Would be more convincing if the rest of us didn't remember what REALLY happened. In fact, many were furious that he DIDN'T exclude the Republicans from the closed door meetings on "Obamacare."

This is the wrong place to try to change history in your favor, Mr. Doan.

Tyrant?

Communist, socialist, Marxist, anti-American, godless, Muslim, Kenyan, Mau-Mau, gangster, radical, elitist, and now, tyrant.

Is it really so hard to see him as the duly-elected, twice-elected President of the United States of America that is really none of the above?

Ah, WRONG Party in Your Memory

and why can't you remember who it was that did this?

Are you SO troubled by the behavior of your own party that your brain has conveniently mis-remembered it, or are you just being dishonest and hoping no one notices?

It was in the middle of "W"s reign that Republicans routinely excluded DEMOCRATS from committee meetings even going so far as moving meeting out of their normal rooms and making it difficult for the Democrats to discover where meetings of committees of which they were members were even taking place.

You are talking about...

Republicans who chose to put their eggs in one basket. Instead of sitting at the table and contributing to Obamacare, they chose to dig in their heels and put all their efforts into making sure it didn't pass. When it did pass, they then decided to make it their mission to be sure Obama was a one-term President. Up until that election, I had voted exclusively republican. I was (and am) furious at my representatives for their churlish behavior...they were invited to the table and refused to participate. If you really believe they were excluded from sitting at the table, perhaps something besides Faux News should be a resource.

"A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner." From "Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative that Left the Cult."

http://truth-out.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=3079&Itemid=228

Tax the Rich?

“ideas that cannot be attempted in today’s fiscal climate without significant additional tax increases on wealthy individuals and large corporations.” Eric Black

“The details may show that Obama’s ideas for Medicare savings come mostly at the expense of doctors and the health care industry.” Eric Black

The Rich, Corporations, Doctors, and the Health Care industry cannot just simply absorb these tax increases. They are passed on to the consumer – rich and poor.

The same is true with the minimum wage “tax.” All consumers will be paying more because of the “tax the rich policies.” The rich do not have enough money to pay for the debt and the outrages spending of the democrats and Obama. He is confiscating more and more wealth from all the people in an attempt empower government.

Of course – Eric and Obama already know this. It seems “tax the rich” are just code words to raise taxes on both rich and poor in order to satisfy the Democrats special interest groups.

Since the Days of Ronnie Raygun

The "rich" have been continuously restructuring the economy and tax policy to absorb more and more of the proceeds of everyone else's labor, and larger portions of everyone else's retirement savings, into their own pockets while ensuring that they also get to keep a greater proportion of those resources for their own selfish and self-serving uses.

Since MOST of this increase in the wealth of the rich is due to financial manipulation, rather than real investment in research, technology, and the new jobs those things would foster, the only jobs that have been created have been for gardeners, valets, butlers, nannies, and the crews of yachts and private jets.

Increasing the minimum wage AND taxing the rich are just ways of returning to a more balanced system,...

where those at the top, who, at this point in time possess far more wealth than anything they could EVER have done to benefit society in general could POSSIBLY justify,...

give up a bit more,...

while those hard working people at the bottom earn (and circulate) a bit more.

It is, after, all the fact that folks at the bottom of s society have money to spend that keeps an economy humming.

Our very slow recovery is a reflection of that reality: The rich have now gotten far too rich, leaving not nearly enough resources to circulate through the rest of society for it to keep humming along nicely.

Unless and until we successfully restructure our society to allow those at the bottom to have enough discretionary income to actually buy a few things beyond their basic necessities, we will never really recover a strong economy.

the Democratic majority

Democrats were in the majority in both the House and the Senate in 2009 and 2010. Those initiatives that Obama claimed he has been begging the Republicans for could have been passed then, but weren't. Why? Because his own party and the voters weren't all that interested in them. I doubt Obama, himself, was interested in anything but Obamacare during that time. What crocodile tears!

You're Probably Right

that if President Obama had taken the attitude he's taking now, those items could and would have passed in 2009-10, but at that time he was too hooked into the idealistic (and unrealistic) perspective that Republicans, despite their rhetoric, really meant well and, like Lincoln, he could call on "the better angels of their nature."

What President Obama has discovered is that the Republicans have beaten those natural "better angels" they were born with to a violent, bloody, death, leaving them with NO internal perspective except that of a "shadow warrior."

For "Shadow Warriors,"

Every item, no matter how trivial brings all-out "full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes," "destroy this [country] in order to 'save' it," war.

They're convinced they MUST win no matter what the cost (especially to others and to future generations).

They fight ONLY to benefit themselves (because NO ONE ELSE is worthy of benefit).

Lying, cheating, stealing, back stabbing and betrayal are completely acceptable because "winning" is more important than honesty, fair play, protection of others' property, friendship or loyalty (to friends, family, colleagues, country, or planet).

There are, of course times when REAL warriors (male and female) are tremendously important, but healthy warriors know that the highest form of "Warrior" is a diplomat. When diplomacy fails, healthy warriors play fair, use the minimum force necessary and fight to protect others, even at tremendous cost to themselves. (Warrior descriptions paraphrase Carol S. Pearson).

What has turned the public off is what we saw during 'W" and now have seen in the opposition to President Obama:...

These shadow warrior tactics and policies, because they arise from the darkest desires buried within those who practice them always have a "trickster" effect invisible to those pursuing them -

they bring about exactly the OPPOSITE of what those who pursue them are convinced they will accomplish.

As the last election proved, we've all seen that effect in spades, now, and we're NOT giving them the chance to destroy us (and themselves) while they continue to labor under the delusion that the massive destruction of our society and our planet that their internal shadows cause them to desire so deeply always and only has positive effects

(and yes, there are a few Blue Dog Democrats who value their elected positions so highly, and are so emotionally dependent on serving in those positions that they are rendered shadow warriors, as well).

The answer is

the filibuster.
The recent Republicans used it ten times as frequently as anyone else in our history.
Effectively all legislation now requires a super majority.

Maybe Republicans are tired

Maybe Republicans are tired of him talking to them like he's the only smart guy in the room. He's the executive and the leader, it's his job to set the stage for cooperation and his rhetoric doesn't do that. If he put actual cooperation above his public relations desires, he might get somewhere.

President CAN'T "Cooperate" with Republicans

They make it impossible.

As they have repeatedly shown, if he signs on to ANYTHING, even things they originally proposed and supported,...

they immediately oppose it.

The Republican definition of "co-operation" has no connection to what healthier people think of when they hear that word:

Healthy people believe co-operation means working out compromises that meet in the middle ground between two opposing sides.

Our current brand of "conservative" Republicans believe co-operation means that others must allow themselves to be co-opted by giving up their previous positions, moving completely to the Republican side, and signing on to whatever the Republicans already wanted to do,...

although, as I said above, it's quite likely that Republicans wouldn't sign onto anything Obama said he supported, even if he did allow himself to be completely co-opted by them.

After the previous election, if the president were to allow himself to be co-opted by the Republicans, it would be a complete betrayal of the people who elected him.

In the meantime, our Republicans friends need to take notice that, in the words of that well-traveled old aphorism, that, in order to be useful in the world, we need to "lead, follow, or get out of the way,"...

there is no mention of bringing everything to a screeching halt because you don't know how to lead, and you're too dysfunctional to follow anyone else (or to try any idea that you, yourselves, didn't already "truly" believe in).

A prime example is Obama's health insurance plan

It was devised by the conservative Heritage Foundation and implemented by Mitt Romney (yes, that Mitt Romney) in Massachusetts.

When Obama proposed the same thing, compulsory private insurance, only with a few sweeteners for consumers, the Republicans reacted as if Obama was trying to turn the U.S. into the U.S.S.R.

AM radio and Fox News went into overdrive with every horror story they could find about the Canadian and British medical systems, even though the two are entirely different from each other and different still from what Obama was proposing. Care conferences--standard procedure at nursing homes, designed to update patients and family members about the patient's state of mental and physical health and what treatment options are available and desirable--and living wills became "death panels."

I don't need to review all the hysterical claims that the Republicans made, although the Democrats share some blame for not providing a brief and easily understandable executive summary at the outset. (I had to search deep into the Internet to find one, and it was created not by the Democrats but by the Kaiser Family Foundation.) I also blame Obama for kowtowing to the Blue Dogs and arm-twisting the more numerous Progressive Caucus to go along instead of the other way around.

I'm afraid you are conflating

I'm afraid you are conflating cooperation and compromise with capitulation.

Who was lambasted with stealing from Medicare? Didn't Mr. Ryan campaign on Obama's "heartless cuts" when those same cuts were a necessary part of the Ryan plan? Couldn't get a closer chance to find common ground, but instead Republicans use it to promote maximum divisiveness.

Republicans can't have it both ways--push for cuts and then try to place the blame on Obama for cutting.

Or how about Republicans setting up the "sequestration trap", then falling into the trap, and then trying to blame Obama for setting up "sequestration", and label it "Obama's sequestration".

Or how about spending decades of fulminating about "waste, fraud and abuse" and yet not able to come up with a list of significant cuts that would achieve their budget goals.

Or endlessly talk about "entitlement reform" and never put a proposal on the table.

The Republicans are certainly not helping the "Republicans R smart" campaign.

Yes, the Republicans play

Yes, the Republicans play right into it. The things I worry about, though are the areas where Obama and the Republicans appear to be in tacit agreement -- extending tax cuts without cutting spending, raising the debt ceiling whenever desired, dominating the world militarily with targeted assassinations via drones at a rate of more than one per day, secret and third-party prisons, torture, and putting the same Wall Street wizards and economic theoreticians who cause the '08 banking crisis in charge of the US economy.

Any opposition to any of that that you see from the Republican side is just a charade. Agreement is predetermined. At most, Mr. Boehner needs to placate some faction within his party by letting them raise their futile objection. The only real ideological battles are over things like abortion, gay marriage, and gun control -- simple-minded personal issues of no consequence to our ruling class.

Then why

do they keep on proving him right ;-)

Cry Me a River!

It's no longer funny to hear Republicans whine about being shut out, or how the President isn't trying to play nice with them. If you people want to continue to be America's rising comedy stars, you need new material.

President Obama spent 2009 and 2010 looking for consensus. Sorry, but the Republicans had decided they were going to turn him into a one-term President. Health care was going to be his Waterloo, and they were going to bring him down at all costs. Everything he proposed was met with not just opposition, but vehement, hysterical rhetoric (it is now a bragging point for a certain Republican House member and Senate candidate that he was the first one to call the President "socialist").

"Democrats were in the majority in both the House and the Senate in 2009 and 2010." Yes, they were. Republican filibuster threats meant a simple majority was not enough to accomplish anything (contrary to the intention of the Founders Republicans claim to admire so deeply).

"[T]alking to them like he's the only smart guy in the room." Republicans have embraced anti-intellectualism ever since the Reagan administration. To complain that people are talking down to them is fussing at their own success.

The Only Smart Guy

By the way, the Republicans' claim that President Obama speaks down to them with the attitude that he's the "only smart guy in the room," has nothing to do with anything he has done or said.

Rather, it's based on a set of inferiority complexes a mile wide and ten miles deep.

Deep within themselves, our Republican friends know that despite their ability to articulate the English language and their ability to make plausible-sounding arguments (as long as you don't research the facts involved) arguments supplied by others as the "talking points" of the moment ,...

they're functioning at an I.Q. level of 85 or less. The "true beliefs" that their psychological dysfunctions require them to wrap around themselves will not allow them to do anything else.

But being unable to look in the mirror for the source of their deep, unacknowledged doubts about their own ideas and ideals, they project those doubts outward onto the President and accuse him of making them feel stupid.

In reality, they generally AREN'T stupid, but they can't let the "smart" ideas in because they have that well-known, "liberal bias."

Obama is a liberal, really?

So Erick Black, you think Obama is a solid liberal? What exactly is your definition of a liberal anyway? And, what "is" the liberal agenda?

When you start hanging labels all over the place without explaining their meaning, it is unproductive, and only serves to divide people over their preconceived (or brainwashed) notions of such.

For instance, do you consider doing away with the Glass-Steagle Act a liberal or conservative action? In my opinion, there was nothing conservative about doing away with a law that had kept our country out of the economic trash bin for 60 years!

You may have missed this, and might want to check it out for yourself:

http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/domestic-taxes/272957-obama-says-h...

Or even the 1970's, for that matter, after all Nixon signed the Clean Water Act, created the EPA, and tried to pass the Heritage Foundations health care plan (same as Obama Care).

Thanks for including this in your comments about Rand Paul's response: "This pitch might have worked better when CEO’s made only 24 times as much as their average employee, as opposed to 243 times as much in 2011." Very liberal of you to do so; or maybe just honest!

Definition

Since 'Liberal' does not denote a formal organization, there is no specific definition of 'Liberal' or formally stated 'Liberal Agenda'. Unlike the Democratic and Republican parties, there is no such thing as a 'Liberal Party Platform'.

The OED gives many definitions of the word.
Those most relevant to its political use are:

" 4a. Free from bias, prejudice, or bigotry; open-minded, tolerant; governing or governed by relaxed principles or rules; (Polit.) favouring social reform and a degree of state intervention in matters of economics and social justice; left-wing."

" 5. Polit. a. Supporting or advocating individual rights, civil liberties, and political and social reform tending towards individual freedom or democracy with little state intervention."

Some countries do have formal Liberal parties that support these positions; we do not.
The closest we have come is the Liberal wing of the Democratic party typified by Paul Wellstone and Russ Feingold. That wing appears to be extinct.

Mr Obama is personally

Mr Obama is personally popular, but many of his policies are not. If nothing else, this suggests that Republicans need to back way off from attacking the man personally, no matter how much he personally rankles them. They need to admit that they're on the defensive and that their opinion of Mr. Obama is a minority opinion. That said, they should be able to find some specific areas of policy in which they can consolidate their strength by scoring small victories on points where public opinion does not necessarily track Mr. Obama's desires.

Once they've shown that they can stand and fight and win on a few small issues of real significance rather than on the largely symbolic issues in which they either score a hollow victory or lose righteously, the Republicans could even legitimately attempt to usurp some liberal issues. They could attempt to cut military spending on the grounds of fiscal responsibility, or legalize marijuana on the grounds of personal liberty and states' rights. I suspect the Tea Party faction would be supportive of such policies, while the dyed-in-the-wool militarists and moralists could safely be left to fume, since they are hardly going to start voting Democrat out of frustration.

When the Republicans fully realize two things -- that most people like Mr. Obama, and to Mr. Obama, annihilation of all opposition is always the ultimate goal -- they may begin to turn their party around.

Personal vs. Policy

I think the President's policies are more popular than you think. A Washington Post poll showed that most Republicans surveyed supported specific gun control measures that the President later advanced. When asked later if they had a favorable imporession of President Obama's proposals, support plummeted (72% had an unfavorable impression). For Republicans, it wasn't the policy but the name attached to it.

"[T]o Mr. Obama, annihilation of all opposition is always the ultimate goal." Sorry, MinnPost moderation won't allow me to post an appropriate response to that one.