Winter of discontent

Seven Republican senators vote to kill the deficit commission they pretended to support. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) criticizes those Republicans for that betrayal, then heads for the hills instead of fighting to make the deficit proposal happen.

The obstructionists control the Republicans. The surrenderists control the Democrats. The Americans are madder than hell at them all.

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In this winter of discontent, Washington insiders are prisoners of a Stockholm Syndrome of delusion and denial, oblivious to the public anger that surrounds them.

We are reduced to a nation that has contempt for Congress, a Congress that has contempt for itself and a president who delegates almost everything to Congress.

President Barack Obama can learn from President Ronald Reagan, who revered and mobilized his base, fought hard for his core convictions and attacked his opponents ferociously while negotiating with them in good faith. This is no contradiction. It is good negotiating, as Reagan knew well and proved often.

Democrats should wage all-out political war against the abusive filibuster obstructionism that violates everything America stands for. This attack should include town meetings, television ads and a presidential address.

The filibuster attacks democracy itself. It attacks the foundation of the republic. It destroys the rights of the majority and promotes the toxic extremism and blood lust of Republicans who desperately hope the president and America fail, because they desperately fear the president and America might succeed.

Democrats should give ’em Harry Truman hell on the filibuster and wield the majority vote whip of reconciliation when it is legally proper and politically popular.

Democrats should offer a bipartisan jobs bill that includes a very generous tax cut for small businesses to create new jobs, an extension of jobless benefits and a strong deficit commission. If Republicans do not agree, Democrats should ram it through by reconciliation and go to the country with this.

The president should address the nation, as Reagan did, and urge voters to contact Congress to support the jobs bill, and to support the strong deficit panel that Democrats should bring up again. He should call out Republican senators who pretended to support it and then killed it as phony deficit-cutters and shameless partisans whom Americans deplore.

Democrats should send Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) to meet nonpartisan Tea Party supporters in search of a common populist agenda for consumers, workers, small investors, taxpayers and retirees.

The president should name a deficit panel led by former White House chiefs of staff from both parties, especially those who worked for Reagan, who negotiated the Social Security deal with Speaker Tip O’Neill. James Baker, Howard Baker and Ken Duberstein, along with Democratic counterparts, would bring vast credibility on deficits and bipartisanship.

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The president should ask former Secretary of State Colin Powell to take a high-level, hands-on post to protect America from terrorism as a service to the nation in the bipartisan tradition. Or another senior Republican such as former Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.), former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean or former Sen. Warren Rudman (N.H.).

If the president and Democrats return to the roots of the 2008 election, and learn the proper lessons of Reagan, the winter of discontent will end and a springtime of renewal can begin.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.

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