In his latest Sunday column, "All the President's Captors ," Frank Rich claims Barack Obama is showing signs of "Stockholm Syndrome" in his dealings with Republicans like "dependency; lack of initiative; and an inability to act, decide or think." Who are the bank robbers taking Obama hostage in this case? The Republican Party.
Those desperate to decipher the baffling Obama presidency could do worse than consult an article titled "Understanding Stockholm Syndrome" in the online archive of The F.B.I. Law Enforcement Bulletin. It explains that hostage takers are most successful at winning a victim's loyalty if they temper their brutality with a bogus show of kindness. Soon enough, the hostage will start concentrating on his captors' "good side" and develop psychological characteristics to please them - "dependency; lack of initiative; and an inability to act, decide or think."
This dynamic was acted out - yet again - in President Obama's latest and perhaps most humiliating attempt to placate his Republican captors in Washington. No sooner did he invite the G.O.P.'s Congressional leaders to a post-election White House summit meeting than they countered his hospitality with a slap - postponing the date for two weeks because of "scheduling conflicts." But they were kind enough to reschedule, and that was enough to get Obama to concentrate once more on his captors' "good side."
And so, as the big bipartisan event finally arrived last week, he handed them an unexpected gift, a freeze on federal salaries. Then he made a hostage video hailing the White House meeting as "a sincere effort on the part of everybody involved to actually commit to work together." Hardly had this staged effusion of happy talk been disseminated than we learned of Mitch McConnell's letter vowing to hold not just the president but the entire government hostage by blocking all legislation until the Bush-era tax cuts were extended for the top 2 percent of American households.
The captors will win this battle, if they haven't already by the time you read this, because Obama has seemingly surrendered his once-considerable abilities to act, decide or think. That pay freeze made as little sense intellectually as it did politically. It will save the government a scant $5 billion over two years and will actually cost the recovery at least as much, since much of that $5 billion would have been spent on goods and services by federal workers with an average yearly income of $75,000. By contrast, the extension of the Bush tax cuts to the $250,000-plus income bracket will add $80 billion to the deficit in two years, much of which will just be banked by the wealthier beneficiaries.
Rich is so disenchanted with Obama he's even showing strange new respect for a Republican with conservative appeal, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.
I don't agree with almost anything Chris Christie, the new Republican governor of New Jersey, has to say. But the popularity of his leadership right now is instructive....the core of Christie's appeal at home is that he explains passionately held views in concrete, plain-spoken detail. Voters know what he stands for and sometimes respect him for his forthrightness even when they reject the stands themselves. This extends to his signature issue - his fiscal and rhetorical blows against public education. He's New Jersey's most popular statewide politician despite the fact that a 59 percent majority in the state thinks public schools deserve more taxpayer money, not less.
And Rich wasn't done with his "Stockholm Syndrome" metaphor, concluding:
....there has never been a sitting president over that period who has had to run with an unemployment rate as high as 8 percent - which is precisely where the Fed's most recent forecasts predict the rate could be mired when Obama faces the voters again in 2012. You'd think he'd be one Stockholm Syndrome victim with every incentive to break out.