Wonky

Rep. James Clyburn: Differences With Obama Mostly Style, Not Substance

Rep. James Clyburn (l), a South Carolina Democrat, and Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. i i

hide captionRep. James Clyburn (l), a South Carolina Democrat, and Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
Rep. James Clyburn (l), a South Carolina Democrat, and Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

Rep. James Clyburn (l), a South Carolina Democrat, and Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

For many Democrats, President Obama's conciliatory tendency until recently towards congressional Republicans has been nothing short of maddening. They've wanted to see more belligerence from him towards their mutual political foes.

Rep. James Clyburn, the South Carolina Democrat who is in the House minority leadership as well as a member of the Congress' deficit-fighting supercommittee, told All Things Considered co-host Michele Norris he understands that frustration.

CLYBURN: A lot of it has to do with style as opposed to substance. Those of us who are in office, most of us have a style that's a little bit different than the president's. Because it's his style to try to seek common ground and try to compromise. He keeps getting their thumb in his eye.

Those of us who come from a different era tend not to appreciate that style.

MICHELE: Is is that people want him to be more pugilistic?

CLYBURN: Well, yes. No question about that. Because if you are not going to get it done, what's wrong with going down swinging?

That's what people tend to want to see. They want to see you fight for the issues even then they question whether or not you can be successful.

Clyburn was in the audience over the weekend at the Congressional Black Caucus dinner when Obama raised a few eyebrows at the end of his speech. It was the president's choice of words as he urged the lawmakers and their constituents to join him in fighting for the Democratic Party agenda.

In another example of Obama seeming to be out of synch with some of his most loyal supporters, the president told the audience: "Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We've got work to do, CBC."

CLYBURN: When I heard it I cringed. Because I kind of anticipated that so much of what came in the first part of the speech would get lost. And people would he hanging on to those words.

Some African Americans found the president's imagery jarring because it made it sound as though black lawmakers, among others, weren't actively aggressively working on behalf of the Democratic agenda. And it conjured up old stereotypes of blacks being lazy.

Of his expectations for the deficit supercommittee, Michele asked Clyburn what he made of comments by Republican leaders that the option of raising taxes would be out of the question for the panel, at least its six Republican members. (Clyburn is one of six Democrats.)

CLYBURN: ... I think the Republican leadership is free to say what it wishes to say. The Democratic leadership, some have said the same thing about entitlements. They're free to say what they want to say.

The members of this committee, I believe, will do collectively what we think is in the best interest of the country. And we've said that everything is on the table and everything is going to stay on the table.We'll come out with a product and the leadership on either side of the aisle can then decide how to muster its troops to do whatever they want done.

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