Many see in the President’s first term a series of concessions and compromises to his Republican opponents as an inherent weakness, as he appears to be someone who is unwilling or afraid to fight back. Others have said that they believe that he is playing this ingenious political/sports strategy and using the political equivalent of the “rope-a-dope” in which, after allowing himself to be pummeled for six rounds, he will surprise his tired opponent in the later rounds with a flurry of knockout punches. I think the answer does lie closer to the boxing analogy, but unlike Muhammad Ali, who took a beating from George Foreman for seven rounds with the intent of knocking out Foreman in the eighth round, President Obama is closer to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. – fight from a defensive posture, don’t take the big hit, and win on points.
Last Saturday, Floyd Mayweather defeated Miguel Cotto in a unanimous decision for his 44th consecutive victory to remain undefeated.
Everyone criticizes Floyd “Pretty Boy” Mayweather. He’s boring to watch, he’s scared, he won’t mix it up or go for the kill. Yet, Mayweather is an undefeated champion who has fought and beaten all (except one) of the greatest boxers of his era. In the ring, it looks like he’s running, when in fact all he is doing is circling so that the other puncher can’t set his feet to hit him. He uses the most risky style in boxing that can backfire in your face on any given night, but this is the style that Mayweather has to use in order to survive – and he’s perfected it.
If you’re the first African-American president during the second worst economic crisis in America’s history, I don’t think you have the luxury of brawling with your opponent. “They” want you to brawl – a straight-up Hagler v. Hearns for four years. They know that most Americans will not tolerate four years of uncompromising fighting. They also know that most Americans will not take the time to thoughtfully understand who is at fault. The easy answer is to blame the singularly most recognizable figure – the President.
The question hanging over President Obama’s political strategy has always been the endgame.
His obsession with “seeming reasonable” makes sense if he uses it as an asset to spend down at the end. You do everything to show your willingness to compromise, you let them keep disrespecting you without any bitterness or pettiness, and when the opposition refuses and refuses, finally you assail them for their fanaticism. It’s harrowing and frustrating to watch. But, like Mayweather, if the President can keep circling his opponent without taking any devastating hits in the next six months he will easily on points. Not the most satisfying result for his supporters, but he’ll have four more years to go for the knockout.
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