It is said after every election that the victors should put politics aside and work for the good of the country.
If President Obama believed this pious nonsense, he would put his second term in jeopardy. Asking politicians to ignore politics is like insisting that professional hockey players switch to basketball. In a system with national elections every two years — and in which the two parties are in relatively close balance — politics never disappears.
Fortunately, the president knows foolishness when he sees it. He has been toughened by four years of unremitting Republican opposition and has behind him both a large Electoral College victory and an advantage of about 3 million popular votes. The word “mandate” is overused — just ask George W. Bush. But Obama was absolutely clear during the campaign about his insistence that taxes on better-off Americans need to rise as part of any deal on the budget deficit and “fiscal cliff.”
And so did Obama gracefully but firmly challenge Republicans on Friday to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class immediately and then begin negotiations on how to raise taxes on the well-to-do. He was asking them to give up their leverage because he knows they don’t have much leverage to begin with. Meet the newly empowered Obama.