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Can Obama win back liberals with his new attack on the GOP?

For months, President Obama heard grumbling from his left. Now he seems to have taken off the gloves – rhetorically, at least – going after Republicans and laying out a more progressive vision.

By Staff writer / April 16, 2011

President Barack Obama speaks at a Democratic Party fundraiser at the Navy Pier in Chicago, Thursday, April 14, 2011.

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For months, President Obama has heard grumbling from his left.

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He caved on a public option for health care, liberals complained. He escalated the war in Afghanistan and failed to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. He let millionaires and billionaires keep their Bush-era tax cuts. He agreed to budget cutting without putting up a fight, and he dithered on gay rights

That was the rap anyway, not only on the substance of issues but in the way progressives were treated by the Obama White House – “with contempt,” former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean told a Monitor breakfast in January. Dean blamed “a group of senior advisers around the president who … thought they knew everything and we knew nothing.”

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To many on the left, this seemed especially true in the way Obama handled budget cutting – rolling over on programs liberals hold dear.

“His political strategists seem to believe that he can win reelection by positioning himself as being conciliatory and reasonable, by always being willing to compromise,” Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times a week ago. “But if you ask me, I’d say that the nation wants … a president who believes in something, and is willing to take a stand. And that’s not what we’re seeing.”

Using a boxing analogy, Daily Beast columnist Eric Alterman observed “a fundamental fact of politics …nobody ever won a fight by turning the other cheek.”

Well, it seems Obama has decided to take off the gloves – at least rhetorically.

With key Republican lawmakers seated a few feet away from him the other day, he lambasted the GOP budget plan for FY 2012.

“There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires,” Obama said in his speech Wednesday at George Washington University. “And I don’t think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill.”

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