Monday, November 15, 2010


By Ivan G. Goldman

President Obama could learn a valuable lesson from Manny Pacquiao, a member of the Philippines Congress and also of course the best fighter in the world. The lesson would be the art of the counterpunch.

All great fighters counterpunch. Just as the opponent tries to throw something, they slip in their own shot first. If it’s executed properly, the counterpunch will come in so fast and hard that the opponent’s punch, even though it went out first, will freeze before it lands because his neuro-biological structure couldn’t handle what struck him. And an opponent is never so vulnerable as when he’s punching. With a fist out there on the attack, he has to be wide open somewhere. And that’s precisely where the counterpuncher lands -- sometimes two, three, four shots. This isn’t chess. You don’t have to wait your turn.

Often the opponent learns, like Pavlov’s dogs did, what sort of reaction follows a certain action. When he throws, he gets punished, so he pulls in and pretty much stops putting out punches. Antonio Margarito, desperate to prove his mettle, didn’t do that. He kept trying, which is why his face turned to dogfood. Pacquiao’s previous opponent, Joshua Clottey, was quickly tamed and basically just tried to survive, covering up, retreating, and throwing few shots.

Now what does this have to do with Obama? You already guessed. He doesn’t hit back, so opponents have nothing to lose by insulting him and his policies and opposing and lying about them. Also, Obama doesn’t, as so many other presidents have done in modern times, send his vice president out to slam the opposition. Obama gives fighters what they call a free lunch, making him, unfortunately, a chump.

In fact, he begins to surrender as soon as the opponent threatens to punch. It’s happened again and again, on the public option part of the health-care plan, for example. Without it, insurance companies can careen down the price road without braking, and if they run over somebody, tough luck. The plan that got passed was an improvement over what we had, but it should have been better. Now there’s early Obama surrender on the tax cuts for the super-rich doled out by Bush the Second and his compliant Congress. And the counterpunch is so obvious. It’s like an uppercut begging to be thrown underneath a lazy hook, but it doesn’t happen.

The Republicans’ main complaint is the deficit. So how do they solve it? By running it up higher to do favors for the people who least need them.

The Republicans vow to repeal “Obamacare,” but the health-care plan cuts the deficit too -- you know, that thing the Republicans claim to despise so much.

Then there’s their cure for banks. Deregulation. A powerless, stupid jab just aching for a right hand over the top. There should be no argument about any of this because there are facts on one side and lies on the other. No economist who isn’t a crackpot will tell you that cutting taxes for the super-rich is a good way to stimulate the economy or be fair to the public. And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office states flatly that the health-care act will pare the deficit. Incidentally, it's true that families making $250,00 and living in big metropolitan areas aren't super-rich. We need more tax brackets. People making $5 million should pay a stiffer rate than those making $250,000.

As for personal attacks, it’s correct just to ignore some of them. Others should be addressed by Joe Biden, who can do a couple rounds once in a while for his boss. He’s willing. He knows what his job is supposed to be, but Obama won’t send him out do it. These stories are slow, dumb punches perfect for a vice president to feast on – allusions and downright statements that the president was born in Indonesia or Kenya, that he’s a Muslim, that he’s the wrong kind of Christian, that he’s a fascist, socialist, communist out to undermine America.

Lots of voters loved Obama when he was a candidate, but they didn’t expect him to be a president who goes out there round after round and hunkers down without throwing any punches. People want a leader who fights for what’s right, does it clean, with hard, quick shots.

Obama learned over the years that it’s dangerous to be an angry black man. It stimulates the fear and loathing among many whites that Hunter Thompson discovered in so many places around America. But screw race. We need a Pacquiao who explains the facts to opponents in ways they can understand. They’ll be so busy covering up and getting pasted that no one will be aware of the champ’s race. They’ll just know America won.

For more allusions to boxing and life, click on The Barfighter on the right corner of this page. For more allusions to politics and life, click on Exit Blue.


Martin Shepard said...

Well said, Ivan. I voted for “Hope You Can Believe In” and got progressively disenchanted. Obama had fire as a candidate, but proceeded to try bi-partisanship by scaling back his programs to appease a Republican minority that had no interest in supporting anything he promised us. So we are left with half-measures at best, and no measures at worst.

He never ended the Afghan War but extended it. It looks like he will be abandoning his vow to let the Bush tax cuts expire for the super-rich, when, if he let all the tax cuts expire by simply doing nothing, what damage is there for the middle class? The only people who will be paying pre-Bush tax rates are the WORKING middle class, and there are fewer and fewer of them. He promised to end “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” yet when a Federal Judge ruled it unconstitutional, instead of rejoicing, his Justice Department appealed her ruling, with Obama saying that the right way to do this was for Congress to revise its own legislation. Does he not realize that Court decisions ended school segregation and other unconstitutional laws? This is political schizophrenia.

And should he allow Nancy Pelosi to lose her position as House Minority Leader--she, who displayed more passion for his programs than Obama himself—-I will be irrevocably disenchanted by him.

Unless Obama surprises me by gaining a backbone, I would say that his 2012 re-election campaign will be modeled on Mohammed Ali's famous “Rope A Dope” strategy, because only a dope would actively support him again.

Martin Shepard. Publisher of The Permanent Press and fellow blogger at

tnlib said...

Excellent analogy. Never thought of it quite that way but it illustrates what's happening - or not happening - quite well.

It's taken me longer than most to realize and express my dismay at a man who exhibited energy, toughness and foresight during his campaign turn into a deflated balloon once in office. I really don't want to hear the word "change" come out of the president's mouth again. It means nothing.

I hope he and the so-called Democratic leadership grows a spine over the next two years or I fear we will lose all and not be able to recover for generations, if ever. Grim.