Have we ever seen a moment like Monday night, when we had an American President more detached from reality?
Mr. Obama gave a political stump speech, which in and of itself was unsurprising. In fact, he has said little different since April. His speeches all amount to this: Republicans are on the political fringe and intransigent, Democrats are reasonable and intelligent, and he alone wants a balanced approach, i.e. tax increases.
But the amazing part of the speech was that Mr. Obama now seems distanced from the political realities that even his own party has accepted. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently laid out a debt ceiling proposal with approximately $2.5 Trillion in cuts (only about $1 Trillion being real cuts), but more importantly, without any tax increases. Reid and Pelosi appear to have largely agreed on this proposal. Yet, we had a Democrat President on primetime continue to demand for increases in tax revenues.
Even the mainstream media, usually oblivious to such stark issues, has noticed this one. Gloria Borger of CNN pointedly noted this fact after Obama’s speech.
Maybe this is the tipping point. In the White House Press briefing on Tuesday, Spokesperson Jay Carney was innundated with questions of why the President has yet to offer any specifics for his budget proposal, especially at such a late date.
The media pummeled Carney for a solid 10 minutes on the simple fact that Obama has not laid out one single policy rider to this bill. Not even one. They then asked why the White House would not release the plan that was being discussed with Boehner which the President’s men state that was close to a deal. The simple fact is that there was never a deal that Obama was close to accepting.
Forget the politics for a moment. Mr. Obama doesn’t understand that he has marginalized himself. Republicans had allowed Obama, over the past few weeks, taken the high ground. But he never claimed the alter of leadership, for a simple reason: he doesn’t know how to lead. Obama could have taken the mantel, and Republicans (with their usual ham handed way of dealing with these issues) would have probably lost the media battle.
Instead, Obama has acted like a petulant child, unable or unwilling to rise about the political rancor. Additionally, unlike his immediate predecessors, Bush and Clinton, he is unable to tell progressives in his own base to sit down and shut up, for the greater good. In all fairness, Republicans are not willing to compromise. But Obama is the leader of his party in a way that no Congressional Republican, Speaker Boehner included, is. But Obama has never showed the spinal fortitude to stand up to his own base, and doesn’t appear to be considering it this time around either.
The way forward is quite clear. Something along the lines of the Boehner proposal is the only thing that will pass the Democrat Senate. The public actually supports the ‘Cut, Cap, and Balance’ proposal by wide margins, but the intransigence of progressives in the Senate (and the White House, for that matter) make that impossible to pass into legislation. I don’t like the concept of coming back to these spending fights 6 months down the road, but Mr. Obama has left little alternative.
The Boehner plan is, to put it mildly, less than optimal. But ultimately, what can pass? Even Paul Ryan, who I think has a lot of credibility here, has come out in favor of the plan:
The Budget Control Act takes an important step in the right direction by cutting $1.2 trillion in government spending over the next decade. Critically, it does this without resorting to Senator Reid’s gimmicks and without imposing the president’s preferred tax increases on American families and the struggling economy.
This bill is far from perfect. We still have a long way to go toward getting the key drivers of our debt — especially federal health-care spending — under control. But considering that House Republicans control only one-half of one-third of the federal government, I support this reasonable, responsible effort to cut government spending, avoid a default, and help create a better environment for job creation.
Obama is divorced from reality. He doesn’t understand that approximately 2/3 of the country thinks we spend too much. Yes, many people feel we could raise taxes on the rich, but it is far from a supermajority, and it is not going to happen with Congressional Republicans in power in the House. Obama can either come to his senses, or he can drive this economy over the cliff. I would not put the latter past him at this point.
That is why Ryan’s point, bolded above, is the key. We need to win in 2012. This President and this Senate will never, ever, pass the reforms necessary to put us on a track to fiscal sanity. No deal that this President would have ever signed would have accomplished our goals.
It is better to frame the topic as we have, and to ‘kick the can’. It is time to focus on 2012, because anything short of a Republican President and Republican Senate will not enable us to save this nation from a fiscal black hole. Holding the line on CCB, as much as it makes me feel better, does not help accomplish the goal of retaking the White House, and thus, does not help to attain our ultimate goal of fiscal sanity. So it is time to cut a deal, a bad one at that, and show this President and these Democrats for what they are: completely and utterly detached from reality.