Unwavering would be the word to describe Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak’s support for President Obama in the wake of the big tax-cut compromise that has many other liberal Democrats questioning Obama’s decision, his leadership, his judgment, his intestinal fortitude and his political instincts.
Rybak, who was among the first Democrats to embrace what was then the longshot candidacy of Obama (he was the first big-city mayor to endorse Obama, and he co-chaired the Obama campaign in Minnesota), is standing by his man.
“We sent him to Washington to get stuff done,” Rybak said this morning. “He’s done a tremendous amount already and in the face of obstinate Republicans, he’s delivering more of it this holiday season. … It’s not everything everyone wants, but it’s a heckuva lot.”
The deal confirms Rybak in his view of Obama as “a rational problem solver who’s thrown a lifeline to people who are suffering right now.”
Yes, candidate Obama said he would work to let the Bush tax cuts expire on the wealthiest, and that’s still his position. But “the core promise” on which Obama ran was to deliver help to the middle class by retaining the tax cuts for them and by adding targeted assistance for those struggling with particular problems, like paying for college, like surviving a bout of unemployment.
“His job is to deliver for people in need right now, and he did,” Rybak said, referring to the concessions that Republicans made as part of the deal. “I’m not crazy about having tax cuts for the very wealthy extended. But it was worth it” to continue to get middle-class tax relief for college tuition, payroll-tax relief that raises people’s take-home pay, and underemployment benefits.
“Sure I’d love him to stand up and have his veins popping out and yell” at the Republicans, Rybak said. “But in the climate we’re in, we have a president who’s not gonna stoop to the level of vitriol of people who clearly don’t want to get anything done. He’s delivering, and that’s what’s important.”
Rybak also refused to second-guess the political judgment that may have been part of the deal, over which party the public would blame if all of the tax cuts had expired.
“I’m not at all interested I who gets blamed for what. … I don’t care what Mitch McConnell says. … I am so tired of having the entire discussion about what needs to take place in this country framed within the political gamesmanship and the polluted atmosphere of Washington. …
“I don’t get as distracted by blather on talk radio,” Rybak said. “I’m looking at results. Incredible progress targeted to people in the middle class.
“The Republicans chose to fight for more tax breaks for the very wealthy and everyone came away with something. The only loser was deficit reduction. That was a setback. But it’s most important right now to give people help to not slip out of the middle class. And that’s what got done.”