Obama’s profile in courage

John F. Kennedy wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book in the 1950s titled Profiles in Courage. Bill Clinton in 1992 had an incident called his “Sister Souljah moment” — a phrase that has become synonymous with the same definition of political courage used by then-Sen. Kennedy in his famous work: the willingness to stand up to your own base when you feel it is the right thing to do, even though it might be the hardest thing to do.

So I ask my fellow liberals (and in particular, the brilliant liberal New York Times columnist, Frank Rich, who wrote quite an ugly personal attack on President Obama this past Sunday for his apparent willingness to compromise with Republicans on the cuts, among other issues):

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Would you prefer no deal at all (and thus, no extension of unemployment compensation) if you were unemployed and your unemployment payments were about to run out just before Christmas?

Or to put it another way, do you believe there is a single unemployed person whose unemployment payments would cease who opposes President Obama’s compromise agreement with the Republicans?

I don’t think so. Do you?

So while I disagree with the extension of these tax cuts, especially to those in the highest income brackets, I appreciate the willingness of President Obama to take the heat from his own political base — knowing the larger good to the middle class to avoid paying higher taxes and to the unemployed to enjoy continued benefits.

In the final analysis, elections are won between the 20-yard lines. Only a wealthy purist liberal has the luxury of preferring to just say no rather than accepting incremental progress through compromise, as President Obama showed the profile in courage to do.

Davis, the principal in the Washington law firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, which also specializes in legal crisis management, served as President Clinton’s special counsel from 1996-98 and as a member of President George W. Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.  He is the author of the book Scandal: How ‘Gotcha’ Politics Is Destroying America.