Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

John Boehner Needs a Dictionary

All of these bipartisan discussions are encouraging, and Republicans hope they will lead to real solutions that help American families. But presidential leadership is really what’s needed. By shifting the focus from charm to courage, and eventually action, we can guarantee our children a future where everyone has the opportunity to find work and pursue their piece of the American dream. That would be the grandest bargain of all.
Obama’s outreach is nice, but where’s the leadership?, John Boehner, Op-ed, Washington Post, today

I have what I think is a better question, this one for the speaker: Where’s a dictionary?

One of the most pernicious aspects of these phony, sequential fiscal crises is, in my opinion, the Republicans’ tactic of selecting single words or short phrases that have an appealing meaning and using them to mean something else entirely–often something the opposite of what the word or phrase actually means.  It’s so clearly concerted, political-consultant-suggested, Madison Avenue-type sales gimmickry; every few days there’s a new messaging word or short phrase, redefined or otherwise-misleadingly used, and then repeated, repeated, repeated … repeated.   

Enter “leadership.”  And now, “courage.”  As in: the president should demonstrate these qualities by delegating to the Tea Party the fiscal policy of the United States, because the Tea Party is now the Republican Party and it wants to disassemble the federal government and will settle for nothing less.* 

So I suggest that Obama offer Boehner a dictionary and ask him to point to where it defines leadership as abdication, and courage as cowering.  Whether you’re the president or, say, the Speaker of the House.  

Maybe more to the point, where in the dictionary definition of either leadership or courage does it define those words as including doing absolutely whatever is necessary to keep your position as House speaker, regardless of the consequences to the country you took an oath of office to serve?  Neither the Merriam-Webster’s nor the Oxford English limits those terms to references to the president of the United States.  The definitions do look broad enough to include the speaker.  And even the Senate minority leader.  Even ones who are petrified (literally, it appears from the look on his face these days) of being “primaried” by a Tea Party candidate.  

The Orwellian redefinition of words to mean the opposite of, or at least something entirely different than, their actual meaning is a standard propaganda and subterfuge tool of dictatorships. Mao Tse-tung was infamous for this.  And so, of course, was Hitler.  (The inscription in German, “Work will make you free,” remains above the front gate of Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland, a permanent reminder of the deeply sinister nature of extreme semantics games employed in the service of political propaganda.)

That so much of the proud-centrist punditry and fair-and-balanced mainstream media have assisted Boehner & Friends in their sophistry in the last month is inexcusable, if no longer surprising.  If they agree with Boehner that the Ryan budget will guarantee our children a future where everyone has the opportunity to find work and pursue their piece of the American dream, then they should explain why.  If they believe instead that the Ryan budget will guarantee our children a future in which Atlas really has shrugged and everyone lives inside The Fountainhead (or maybe in the Pakistan of North America), then they should say that, and explain why. At least the news analysis writers and the centrist pundits should.

They won’t.  But maybe a few of them will point out that, with due respect to Mr. Boehner, the grandest bargain of all would be a free Webster’s Collegiate delivered to the Speaker’s office on Capitol Hill.

As for Obama, he got lucky in the last two days. The Ryan budget will disabuse a clear majority of the next poll responders that the GOP should be trusted with determining what cuts to make to the federal budget, and when. At least if the public actually learns the specifics. (That, of course, would have been true for the last few years, had Obama deigned to apprise the public of the specifics.) And the live “tweets” from the Republican House-member attendees during their meeting with him yesterday were so vile that Obama really needs now only to recite a few of them in order to fully open the public’s eyes, if and when he decides to speak to the public about the actual situation.  

And, who knows? Maybe he will, now that he’s checked off the extend-an-olive-branch box on the mainstream press’s list of what Leaders (if not necessarily Courageous ones) do, and therefore may even have their permission to do so.

*See Greg Sargent’s terrific Morning Plum column in today’s Washington Post.

Tags: , , , , , , , Comments (7) | |

Mitch McConnell Says the Congressional Republican Caucuses Are “The American People.” Got That, American People?

[O]ne thing Americans simply will not accept is another tax increase to replace spending reductions we already agreed to.

— Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, yesterday

He’s right, of course, since, by “Americans,” he means the roughly 278 Americans who comprise the House and Senate Republican caucuses.  

As Greg Sargent points out this morning, a recent Pew poll suggests that about ¾ of the remainder of Americans–the ones who are not among the “we” who already agreed to tax rate increases on couples with incomes of more than $450,000 and individuals with incomes of more that $400,000–actually beg to differ with Sen. McConnell on that assessment of what the American people will ever accept.

So, obviously, McConnell doesn’t mean those American people.  Even assuming that those American people are even Americans.  Or even people.  (No one’s polls corporate people, as far as I know, but I suspect that many of them would side with McConnell, so we’ll give him that. But that doesn’t meant that the Americans who were polled were people.  They may be cyborgs.  Or dogs.)

He also doesn’t mean the American people who voted by a majority of about 5 million last November for the presidential candidate who campaigned on a platform of raising tax rates on incomes of more than $250,000 for couples and $250,000 for individuals, and on closing tax loopholes and eliminating deductions available mostly to the wealthy.  Rest assured; he definitely does not mean those American people, most of whom committed voter fraud by voting in the election, since although they are people, they are, by virtue of their vote for Obama, not really Americans, whether or not they were born in Hawaii (or California or New York or New Mexico or New Hampshire) or instead in Kenya.  

Nor does he mean the American people who voted by substantial aggregate majorities to decrease rather than increase the number of Republican senators and representatives in the current Congress–a Congress whose members are not, by the way, the “we” in the “we already agreed to.”

The article I linked to above for that quote is one by Michael D. Shear in today’s New York Times, called “White House Counts on G.O.P. to Bend as Cuts’ Effects Are Felt.”  It’s chock full of great points, including that “[s]trategists for [John] Boehner believe that Republicans have been successful in branding the cuts as Mr. Obama’s idea.”  I hope so, since proposal of  “the cuts” at issue were the only alternative to a Republican-forced default on America’s already-incurred debt, including on treasury bonds, and since the cuts that were Obama’s idea probably are more popular than the cuts that are the Republicans’ idea-none to the Defense Department’s budget and draconian ones to almost every other discretionary program and agency.  

Which brings me to the newest journalistic gimmick in reporting on all this.  Well, I’ll just quote Shear illustrate:

In accepting the inevitability of an extended Washington stalemate, the White House is risking the possibility that Americans may eventually blame the president, not members of Congress, for job losses, smaller paychecks, longer lines at airports, a reduction in government services and a less well-equipped military.

Uh-huh.  The White House is risking the possibility that Americans may eventually blame the president, not members of Congress, for job losses, smaller paychecks, longer lines at airports, a reduction in government services and a less well-equipped military.  And the likelihood that that will happen is very high, since the Republicans are unwilling to trade more tax revenue from the wealthy and from profits-hoarding corporations for fewer job losses, no reduction in paychecks, ordinary-length lines at airports, little or no reduction in government services and a well-equipped military.  

Er, I mean, the American people are unwilling to make that trade.  But they won’t blame themselves.  Instead, they’ll blame Obama.  Who is, although certainly a person, not an American one.

Tags: , , , , , , Comments (1) | |

Why Does Washington Post Columnist David Ignatius Say Obama Should Have Allowed Default On The National Debt in Aug. 2011? He Doesn’t Say Why, So Someone Should Ask Him.

To me, one of the big mysteries of the sequester blame game is why some in the punditry keep echoing John Boehner’s proud Obama-proposed-the-sequester line, without pointing out what the only alternative was.  The most baldly ridiculous of articles in that narrow genre is Washington Post columnist–and, I suspect, not coincidentally, Bob Woodward colleague–David Ignatius’s piece, in a column posted yesterday afternoon and published in today’s paper, in which Ignatius says in effect that Obama should have allowed a default of the federal government’s debt obligations in Aug. 2011 because the only alternative–”Obama’s sequester legislation”–is worse than what the result of a default would have been.

Seriously.  He does try, hard, to disguise that that is what he’s saying.  But the sleight of hand he uses is so flagrantly, well, a sleight of hand that he doesn’t succeed.  Here’s what he says:

Much as I would criticize Obama, it’s wrong to say that both sides are equally to blame for what’s about to hit us. This isn’t a one-off case of Republicans using Obama’s sequestration legislation to force reckless budget cuts. It’s a pattern of behavior: First the Republicans were prepared to shut down the government and damage the national credit rating with their showdown over the debt ceiling; then they were careening toward the “fiscal cliff.” This isn’t a legislative tactic anymore; it’s an addiction.

Soooo … he acknowledges that the Republicans were prepared to shut down the government and damage the national credit rating with their showdown over the debt ceiling. He just doesn’t mention that the impending debt default and Obama’s sequestration legislation–Obama presumably having become a member of the House for a few days back then and joined the Republican caucus–are, y’know, related.

So, since apparently Ignatius’s editors–Bob Woodward’s colleagues–didn’t ask him this, I will:  Since, without Obama’s sequester legislation, the government would in fact have shut down, and the damage to the national credit rating (among other things) would have been significant–and so, this is what Obama’s sequester avoided–why do you think Obama’s sequester legislation was worse?  Might it be that Bob Woodward said so?

Of course, I also think the news media should pose that question to Boehner next time he preens that the sequester was Obama’s idea and that he therefore “owns” it.  Since Obama also owns the avoidance of default on the federal government’s debt in aug. 2011, and since Boehner & Friends own the attempt to throw the world’s financial system into chaos in Aug. 2011, it does seem to me that ownership of the sequester might be a good thing, and ownership of the alternative to the sequester a bad thing.  Obama might want to point this out in, say, a 10-minute primetime TV address on these constant trumped up financial crises, and especially right now, the current one.  But, well, that’s just not something he would actually do.

Meanwhile, Post Columnist Matt Miller today does pinpoint where Obama is to blame in this: Agreeing to the mere $600 in increased tax revenue from the wealthy as part of the “fiscal cliff” resolution rather than simply allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire and having the new Congress write new tax legislation in the first two weeks or so of January.  Indeed.

Tags: , , , , , Comments (3) | |

Oh, Dear. The David Brooksification of the Washington Post Editorial Board. And Brooks Doesn’t Even Write For The Washington Post. (But he does still write for the New York Times.) – UPDATED

As Greg Sargent pointed out this morning, the new “it” gimmick of the pox-on-both-houses punditry is to borrow National Journal editorial something-or-other Ron Fournier’s tac of pretending that Obama can order the military to invade the House of Representatives and hold its members at assault-weapon-point until they agree to a grand bargain.  Or at least to a less-grand one that includes additional tax revenue mainly through the closing of loopholes for the wealthy.  

Sargent doesn’t give credit where it’s due, though; he fails to identify Fournier as the etymoligcal source for this.  But, best as I can tell, he is; he just forgot to copyright it.

The key to this particular gimmick is a slight variation on the Orwellian redefinition of the word “lead” offered, repeatedly now, by John Boehner. In that original form, lead actually means follow.  Or, capitulate.  As in: The president needs to show leadership by delegating policymaking to the Republicans.  But in the slightly morphed from being employed by the punditry, it means–seriously–using actual force to compel the House to agree to a compromise that includes raising more tax revenue from the wealthy.

And surely this will resonate with the public.  After all, doesn’t everyone want a president who leads?  And isn’t all that matters simply the use of the word lead–regardless of how closely that use corresponds to the actual common English-language meaning of the word?

Well, obviously, the answer to that question is yes, because today the Washington Post features an editorial called “Sequester offers President Obama a time to lead,” which suggests that Obama offer a grand bargain that includes … additional tax revenues from the wealthy.

Call up the Army, Mr. President. And a Marine unit or two.  

Actually, apparently the purpose of the editorial–its purported purpose, anyway–is to try to goad Obama into proposing a grand bargain that would cut Social Security and Medicare benefit and that would include additional tax revenue.  So editorial writer casually segues from “leader” as someone who forces an actual agreement to “leader” who proposes a bold, sweeping, grand solution that the other side will reject out-of-hand and that therefore doesn’t resolve the sequester issue that the writer insists Obama is obligated to force a resolution of.  

But the actual purpose of the editorial–at least one actual purpose–is to support and subtly reiterate Bob Woodward’s false and baldly silly claim in that paper last weekend that in Aug. 2011 Obama agreed to a deal that forbade him and the Senate Democrats from bargaining to replace the sequester with any agreement except one that was even more abhorrent to the Dems’ position than the sequester.  According to Woodward, Obama agreed as part of the sequester itself that the Repubs were free to try to replace the sequester with a deal that removed Defense Department cuts and replaced those cuts with draconian cuts to social safety net programs and to other agencies and programs that the Dems support.  (The EPA!  The SEC! The Consumer Product Safety Commission!)  But, Obama agreed, the Dems would not be entitled to try to replace some of the cuts with additional tax revenue. 

Uh-uh.  No, sir.  This train runs in only one direction: Republican.

Sounds to me like a deal that Obama could have just cut to the chase and taken right then and there, in Aug. 2011 rather than waiting 18 months.  But it doesn’t sound that way to Woodward. Or to the editorial’s author, who writes:

The Republicans are right when they say that the sequester was Mr. Obama’s idea, in the summer of 2011, and that he agreed to a deal that was all spending cuts, no tax hikes.

Yup. I guess that if you’re a Washington Post editorial writer, you can try to get away with saying that Obama “agreed to a deal that was all spending cuts, no tax hikes,” and not identify which deal you’re talking about–the sequester deal, which indeed was all spending cuts, or instead a deal to replace the sequester, which has yet to be made and therefore includes no deal that is all spending cuts.  At least if you don’t give a damn about your paper’s credibility.  

And if you don’t care that you’re playing with fire.  Words have actual meanings, and these semantics sleights of hand are matches.

But the editorial is dangerous in a substantive, rather than only a semantics, respect as well, because it bases its grand-bargain argument upon a claim that we must agree now to cut Social Security and Medicare in the future in order to pay for things like increases in education funding and guaranteed quality preschool now.  At least I think that’s what it’s saying.  

Ben Bernake, by the way, made clear today under questioning before the Senate Banking Committee, that he begs to differ with the assessment that this is a grand idea. The Washington Post’s economics and finance reporter who covered the hearing will report accurately on what transpired. The Washington Post’s editorial board won’t even understand it. Or won’t admit that they do.

Meanwhile, never to be outdone in recommending policies to Obama so that Obama can lead, without offering an iota of explanation or support for them, David Brooks weighed in this morning with another leadership-as-a-double-entendre column.  This time, fresh from his mea culpa about his last column, and in fact reiterating the walk-back, Brooks acknowledges that inequality has spiraled out of control since the Clinton era, and agrees that Obama should propose policies to address this.  Like a consumption tax to offset an elimination of income taxes on incomes up to $100,000 and a reduction of corporate tax rates to 15%.  

Brooks doesn’t explain the policy reasons for the two offsets he suggests.  But he doesn’t have to.  Everyone knows that the less progressive the tax code, the less inequality in wealth we will have, and that record corporate profits and record corporate hoarding of those profits leads to more equality of income.  After all, they’ve read past Brooks columns.

As for the Washington Post editorial board, when they consider important people who should lead, but aren’t, they might want to look in the mirror.  They emphasize that the Republicans are right that the sequester was Mr. Obama’s idea, in the summer of 2011.  But they don’t mention that the alternative was the default by the United States on all of its already-incurred financial obligations, including its Treasury bonds. Nor that that, by absolutely all accounts, would have destabilized the entire world economy.

This is important stuff. And as the editorial board of one this country’s emanant general-news publications, they’re important people. They should take that responsibility seriously. They should lead.


—–

UPDATE:  Washington Post columnist David Ignatius writes, in a column posted this afternoon:

Much as I would criticize Obama, it’s wrong to say that both sides are equally to blame for what’s about to hit us. This isn’t a one-off case of Republicans using Obama’s sequestration legislation to force reckless budget cuts. It’s a pattern of behavior: First the Republicans were prepared to shut down the government and damage the national credit rating with their showdown over the debt ceiling; then they were careening toward the “fiscal cliff.” This isn’t a legislative tactic anymore; it’s an addiction.

Excuse me, Mr. Ignatius, but given that you acknowledge that the Republicans were prepared to shut down the government and damage the national credit rating with their showdown over the debt ceiling, isn’t it a bit–oh, I don’t know–odd for you to imply that that was unconnected to, y’know, Obama’s sequester? Since, without* Obama’s sequester, the government would in fact have shut down, and the damage the national credit rating would have been, um, significant–so, this is what Obama’s sequester avoided?

Or was Obama’s sequest really just proposed in a vacuum, as you suggest? I forget. Or you do.

Or maybe you just pretend to.

*Typo-corrected. Originally, it said “with” rather than “without.” Oops.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , Comments (5) | |

Bob Woodward’s Seriously Stupid Conflation of “The Sequester” and “A Deal to REPLACE the Sequester”

Good lord.  So much ado about one high-profile journalist’s (deliberate or inadvertent; I can’t tell which) semantics ploy.  

Stellar New York Times White House correspondent Jackie Calmes, in a lengthy article on the provenance of the sequester, explains the controversy:

As this weekend arrived, Republicans were circulating a column by [Bob] Woodward published online by The Washington Post on Friday, in which he wrote that Mr. Obama was “moving the goal posts” from what he had agreed to in the summer of 2011 by insisting that a sequestration substitute have tax increases as well as entitlement-spending reductions.
“Moving goal posts?” the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, wrote in a Twitter message in response, adding that 40 House Republicans in November 2011 signed a letter supporting new revenues as part of a deal. Mr. Carney suggested in a later Twitter message that Mr. Woodward was “willfully wrong.”

Mr. Obama vowed from the day he announced the agreement 19 months ago that he would insist on “a balanced approach” that cut entitlement spending and raised revenues by overhauling tax breaks. “Everything will be on the table,” he said.

The 2011 agreement left unspecified how to achieve the additional $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. That fall a so-called supercommittee considered revenue increases totaling $300 billion in a Republican plan, $800 billion in Democrats’ offer. With the super-committee’s failure, Mr. Obama and Congress had a year to seek the elusive “grand bargain.”

Woodward’s piece is labeled opinion.  But it is in fact not opinion; it is bald representation of fact.  In other words, it is standard journalism reportage.  Except for the fact that the key representation of fact is patently false, and false in a respect that not only is extremely easy to refute with tangible facts, as Calmes does, but also false in a manner that is flagrant to anyone who recalls last year’s campaign.  Specifically, Obama built his entire campaign last year primarily around the promise to raise income tax rates to Clinton-era levels for people with incomes above $250,000; to close tax loopholes for the wealthy and corporations; and to protect basic social safety net programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as much as possible while increasing spending on certain other targeted programs.  

But it’s also obvious that it’s false because, well, why in heaven’s name would Obama agree to not demand tax increases to replace a sequester that he was proposing precisely because he was not willing to agree to spending cuts without revenue increases? Why wouldn’t he just have agreed to the Republicans’ demands in Aug. 2011 instead of agreeing to agree to those demands at the expiration of the sequester?

Obama wouldn’t, of course.  So the next question is: Why in heaven’s name would this journalist claim Obama did?

Part of the answer is clear to me, upon reading the last several paragraphs of Woodward’s article–where the bizarre claim is made. Here are the paragraphs:

On Tuesday, Obama appeared at the White House with a group of police officers and firefighters to denounce the sequester as a “meat-cleaver approach” that would jeopardize military readiness and investments in education, energy and readiness. He also said it would cost jobs. But, the president said, the substitute would have to include new revenue through tax reform.

At noon that same day, White House press secretary Jay Carney shifted position and accepted sequester paternity.

“The sequester was something that was discussed,” Carney said. Walking back the earlier statements, he added carefully, “and as has been reported, it was an idea that the White House put forward.”

This was an acknowledgment that the president and Lew had been wrong.
Why does this matter?

First, months of White House dissembling further eroded any semblance of trust between Obama and congressional Republicans. (The Republicans are by no means blameless and have had their own episodes of denial and bald-faced message management.)

Second, Lew testified during his confirmation hearing that the Republicans would not go along with new revenue in the portion of the deficit-reduction plan that became the sequester. Reinforcing Lew’s point, a senior White House official said Friday, “The sequester was an option we were forced to take because the Republicans would not do tax increases.”

In fact, the final deal reached between Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2011 included an agreement that there would be no tax increases in the sequester in exchange for what the president was insisting on: an agreement that the nation’s debt ceiling would be increased for 18 months, so Obama would not have to go through another such negotiation in 2012, when he was running for reelection.

So when the president asks that a substitute for the sequester include not just spending cuts but also new revenue, he is moving the goal posts. His call for a balanced approach is reasonable, and he makes a strong case that those in the top income brackets could and should pay more. But that was not the deal he made.

Ah.  Reread the second- and third-last paragraphs there, the paragraphs just be the denouement:

Second, Lew testified during his confirmation hearing that the Republicans would not go along with new revenue in the portion of the deficit-reduction plan that became the sequester. Reinforcing Lew’s point, a senior White House official said Friday, “The sequester was an option we were forced to take because the Republicans would not do tax increases.”

In fact, the final deal reached between Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2011 included an agreement that there would be no tax increases in the sequester in exchange for what the president was insisting on: an agreement that the nation’s debt ceiling would be increased for 18 months, so Obama would not have to go through another such negotiation in 2012, when he was running for reelection.

Yes, Mr. Woodward.  Lew testified during his confirmation hearing that the Republicans would not go along with new revenue in the portion of the deficit-reduction plan that became the sequester.  Yes, the sequester was an option the White house was forced to take because the Republicans would not do tax increases.

And, yes, Mr. Woodward, the final deal reached between Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2011 included an agreement that there would be no tax increases in the sequester in exchange for what the president was insisting on: an agreement that the nation’s debt ceiling would be increased for 18 months, so Obama would not have to go through another such negotiation in 2012, when he was running for reelection.

And the the final deal reached between Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2011 included an agreement that there would be no tax increases in the sequester in exchange for what the president was insisting on: an agreement that the nation’s debt ceiling would be increased for 18 months, so Obama would not have to go through another such negotiation in 2012, when he was running for reelection.  It did not, of course, include an agreement that there would be no tax increases in the final agreement to replace sequester 18 months later.

If Bob Woodward really believes that Obama agreed in Aug. 2011 to cut the federal budget deficit by about $3 trillion (or whatever the figure is) almost entirely through cuts to (near-elimination of large parts of) the social safety net and other non-defense “discretionary” spending–and that is exactly what Woodward is claiming–then I want to offer to sell him a quitclaim deed to the Brooklyn Bridge.  

My real estate agent moonlights as a Republican congressional staffer–the one who just sold Woodward a bill of goods. Woodward probably will have to get a mortgage, though.  He’s probably out of liquid assets at the moment.

There is, of course, a serious matter here, but it’s not the substance of the agreement between Obama and the congressional Republicans on how to avoid default on the United States’ incurred debt obligations.  It’s why this journalist’s longtime employer, the Washington Post, has given him carte blanche to use it as a forum to disseminate obviously false representations of fact.  And, to borrow a phrase from Woodward, why does it matter?

These are not rhetorical questions, but the Post surely won’t answer the first one, and the second one, though not rhetorical, does answer itself.  At least under any journalistic standards worth having, it does.

Tags: , , , , , Comments (3) | |

Why You Don’t Want Ron Fournier to Be a Journalist – (Mainstream-journalism gimmickry) [Post republished after editing]

I was wrong.  It turns out that National Journal editorial director Ron Fournier wasn’t out sick the day his eighth-grade civics class learned about the separation of powers between the three branches of the federal government, after all.  He was present and learned about it.  But he missed a class a few weeks later explaining that the president lacks the authority to order a military invasion of the House of Representatives and sequestration–the literal kind, not the budgetary kind.  

I know, I know; the president is the commander in chief. But it’s Congress that must formally declare war, and Congress probably wouldn’t declare war on itself. One house might declare war on the other, but that wouldn’t meet the Constitution’s requirement that both houses vote to declare war on the same target.

There is, of course, the option of CIA renditions.  Which, after reading Fournier’s new blog post [h/t Greg Sargent] responding to the critics of a blog post in which he blamed Obama for the sequester because in “any enterprise, the chief executive is ultimately accountable for success and failure”–any enterprise, even one in which the chief executive isn’t actually the chief executive, but instead is the chief of the executive branch–I’m presuming is what Fournier has in mind.

Originally, I’d thought he meant that he wanted Obama to simply capitulate to the House Republicans and let them gut discretionary spending, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.  In other words, delegate federal fiscal policy to the Tea Party.  Others thought that, too, among them an unidentified senior White House official, who wrote to Fournier to complain.  But Fournier says he doesn’t understand what he calls this defensive reaction.*  He quotes part of the defensive reaction:

“Your point … in this piece and in a bunch of others in between seems to be that, because he’s president, Obama is obligated to do all the compromising himself,” wrote a senior White House official, whom I agreed not to identify. “Essentially what you’re saying is that he should respond to the GOP’s absolute refusal to compromise by giving in to them entirely.”

But Fournier says the White House official misunderstood him.  Fournier explains:

Actually, that’s not what I’m saying. Ignore the straw man. My point is this: Unlike presidential aides and liberal allies, I don’t think the president is politically impotent. I think he has the personal skills and power to lead, to fix this crazy mess.

It would require compromise, something the president has expressed a willingness to do. True problem-solving leadership also would require making tough choices that would anger his liberal base far more than the president is doing now; imposing sacrifice on all voters, including the middle class; and risking his high approval ratings. And, yes, he can’t do it without Republicans.

Actually, though, the White House official’s description was exactly what Fournier was saying,  Because although Fournier wants the president to act like a CEO, he knows that in this particular enterprise there is no CEO, and one branch of the enterprise is controlled by the Tea Party.

Fournier titles his new post, “Why You Don’t Want Me to Be President.”  The answer to that question is that he has no idea how the president could get the House to compromise.  But Fournier reminds that, unlike Obama, he didn’t run for president in 2008 promising to lead.  And Fournier says he wants the president to lead.  

Except that actually he makes clear that what he wants the president to do is follow.  

The subtitle of his post is “The White House is waving the white flag on working with a hardheaded GOP.”  It should read “The White House should wave the white flag on working with a hardheaded GOP.”  That would be an accurate description of the contents of the post.  

—-
*This post is an edited version of one I posted at about 6 p.m. on Friday.  The asterisked sentence is one of three that I edited.  I’ve also added the final two sentences.  The post is a followup to a post from earlier Friday. I’ve also created an additional label: mainstream-journalism gimmickry. I’ve left the original rather than delete it, because of the comments posted to that post.

Tags: , , , , Comments (1) | |