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The President Who Voted ‘Present’

- August 3, 2011

The Man Without A Plan Came Late To The Debt Debate And Left Without Leaving His Mark

OBAMA TRIED TO KEEP HIS REELECTION A PRIORITY WHILE DUCKING HIS RESPONSIBILITY TO LEAD ON THE BUDGET

Bloomberg: “Obama Came Months Late To The Negotiations” And “Allowed 2012 Election Concerns To Shape His Timing.” “Obama came months late to the negotiations, allowed 2012 election concerns to shape his timing and willingness to advocate Social Security and Medicare reductions, and undermined his position by shifting his priorities, they said.” (Margaret Talev and Mike Dorning, “Obama’s Deficit Bargain Lost Out To 2012 Politics With Shifting Priorities,” Bloomberg, 8/1/11)

The President Brushed Off The Recommendations Of The Fiscal Commission

The New York Times: "With the budget he is to unveil Monday, President Obama has not opted for the bold, comprehensive approach to reining in the fast-growing federal debt that his own fiscal commission has said is needed, now."  (Jackie Calmes, "A Cautious Approach Seeking Bipartisan Appeal," The New York Times,2/13/11)

  • CNN’s Jessica Yellin: “The president ordered a deficit commission forum. They recommended overhauling entitlements, and then the budget doesn't touch it. What was the point having a debt commission then?”  (CNN’s “The Situation Room” 2/14/11)

Proposed A Budget That Did Nothing To Curb The Growth Of Government

President Obama’s FY2012 Budget “Declined To Propose Major Changes To Social Security, Medicare Or Medicaid.” “Even as the administration said it wants to reduce the deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years, it declined to propose major changes to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, which combined account for more than 40 percent of federal spending.” (Perry Bacon Jr., “In Third Year, Obama Proposes A More Modest Course,” The Washington Post, 2/14/11)

Given The Chance To Show Leadership With His Budget, Obama "Chose Instead To Duck" Behind "The Sort Of Budgetary Gimmicks He Once Derided.” (Editorial, "President Obama's Budget Kicks The Hard Choices Further Down The Road," The Washington Post, 2/15/11)

And Tried Pitching A Framework So Vague It Couldn’t Even Be Scored

After The CBO Totaled The Red Ink In Obama’s Budget, The President Chose To Replace It With A Speech In April Too Vague To Be Scored. “In February, President Obama submitted his budget. The CBO reported that it would steeply boost the national debt. In April, the president released a revised deficit-reduction plan so short on detail that the CBO deemed it too vague to evaluate.” (Editorial, “This Is Not A Poker Game,” The Post And Courier (Charleston, SC), 6/17/11)

  • Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf: “We Don’t Estimate Speeches.” (Committee On The Budget, U.S. House Hearing,, 6/23/11)

AFTER CHOOSING TO FOLLOW, OBAMA TRIED TO LEAD ON THE DEBT CEILING BUT HIS SHIFTING POSITIONS LEFT HIM ON THE SIDELINES

Chicago Sun Times: Obama “Punted And Failed The Test Of Leadership. Now, He’s Trying To Assume That Mantle.” “He could have started the discussion on the deficit last winter instead of waiting until this summer and a looming Aug. 2 deadline on raising the debt ceiling. But he punted and failed the test of leadership. Now, he’s trying to assume that mantle.” (Steve Huntley, “Obama Fires Blank On Economy,” Chicago Sun-Times, 7/12/11)

Obama Started The Debate Demanding A Clean Bill …

After His April Budget Speech, “Obama’s Position Began Shifting.” “In April, the president proposed a $4 trillion, 12-year deficit-cutting plan, with $3 in cuts for every $1 in tax increases. Social Security benefit adjustments were not part of that plan. From that point on, Obama’s position began shifting.” (Margaret Talev and Mike Dorning, “Obama’s Deficit Bargain Lost Out To 2012 Politics With Shifting Priorities,” Bloomberg, 8/1/11)

  • After His April Budget Speech Obama Continued To “Bob And Weave” On The Federal Budget. “Not only was the president forced to accept a deal to the right of the fiscal commission’s proposal; he also yielded the high ground for three crucial months, enduring unrelenting criticism for his lack of leadership. And even after his mid-April shift, which rendered his original budget proposal an embarrassing dead letter two months after it was submitted, he continued to bob and weave.” (William Galston, “The White House’s Three Biggest Blunders in the Debt Ceiling Fight,” The New Republic, 8/2/11)

“At First, Obama Said Congress Must Not Tie A Debt-Ceiling Increase To The Debate Over Reducing The Deficit.” (Margaret Talev and Mike Dorning, “Obama’s Deficit Bargain Lost Out To 2012 Politics With Shifting Priorities,” Bloomberg, 8/1/11)

  • White House Press Secretary Jay Carney Says It Is “Imperative” That The Debt Limit Not Be Tied To “Any Other Action.” “However, when asked about the president's comment, White House press secretary Jay Carney said it is ‘imperative’ that a debt-limit vote not be ‘held hostage to any other action, because of the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling.’" (Peter Schroeder, “White House: Obama Hasn’t Cahgned On ‘Clean’ Debt Vote,” The Hill’s “On The Money”, 4/15/11)
  • OMB Director Jacob Lew Insists That The Debt Limit Be Passed “As A Clean, Standalone Bill.” “Jack Lew, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, struck a similar tone in an interview airing this weekend. ‘Our very strong view is that the debt limit should be passed as a clean, standalone bill,’ he said in an interview with Bloomberg TV's ‘Political Capital With Al Hunt.’” (Peter Schroeder, “White House: Obama Hasn’t Cahgned On ‘Clean’ Debt Vote,” The Hill’s “On The Money”, 4/15/11)

And Ended It Accepting A Plan Without The Tax Increases He Repeatedly Demanded

“After Republicans Ignored His Demand, He Said A Debt-Ceiling Increase Should Be As Long-Term As Possible And Tied To As Much Deficit-Cutting As Possible.” (Margaret Talev and Mike Dorning, “Obama’s Deficit Bargain Lost Out To 2012 Politics With Shifting Priorities,” Bloomberg, 8/1/11)

  • Then He Surprised Democrats When He Began Talking About Reforming Entitlements With Speaker Boehner. “In July, Obama surprised Democratic lawmakers and activists when he discussed reducing cost-of-living adjustments to Social Security in deficit negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, Democratic officials said. In exchange for that, Obama insisted on tax changes that would produce at least $800 billion in new revenue.” (Margaret Talev and Mike Dorning, “Obama’s Deficit Bargain Lost Out To 2012 Politics With Shifting Priorities,” Bloomberg, 8/1/11)
  • Then Obama Went From Insisting On Revenues In The Deal To Endorsing A Plan Without Any Revenues. “When those talks collapsed -- with Boehner claiming the White House suddenly sought $400 billion more in revenues -- Obama continued to insist that any plan must have a balance of cuts and revenue increases. Last week, Obama backtracked and endorsed a cuts-only compromise proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.” (Margaret Talev and Mike Dorning, “Obama’s Deficit Bargain Lost Out To 2012 Politics With Shifting Priorities,” Bloomberg, 8/1/11)

NOW THE PRESIDENT’S ALLIES ACKNOWLEDGE THAT NOT HAVING A PLAN WAS NO PLAN AT ALL

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD): “I Think The President May Well Have, From My View, Offered The Bowles Simpson Alternative Much Earlier And Indicated Much Stronger Support For That.” (MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown,” 8/1/11)

Former Clinton Advisor William Galston: “If Your Objective Is To Be A President Who Achieves Transformational Change, Then I’m Not Sure Waiting From December To Mid-April Is Wise.” “‘OK, so he smoked them out,’ Galston said. ‘What did it get him? If your objective is to be a president who achieves transformational change, then I’m not sure waiting from December to mid-April is wise,’ Galston said. In the end, Obama ‘was forced into defense early on and it’s not clear to me he was ever able to regain the offensive.’” (Margaret Talev and Mike Dorning, “Obama’s Deficit Bargain Lost Out To 2012 Politics With Shifting Priorities,” Bloomberg, 8/1/11)

And Obama’s Negotiating Skills Are A Laughing Matter

NBC’s Chuck Todd Call The Debt Ceiling Deal A “Policy Loss” For Democrats And Induces Laughter When Acknowledging The White House’s Negotiating Failures. CHUCK TODD: “Well, I think the argument a democrat would make is ‘we fight to live another day’. It's not – it wasn't – it was ugly. It wasn't -- it certainly isn't a policy victory and I think you look at it and you might call it a policy loss. The loss could have been a heck of a lot worse. The White House has gotten the message that they need to get better at doing these things – doing negotiations, selling deals. And at the end of the day …” MORNING JOE PANEL: (LAUGHTER) TODD: “—at the end of the day …” JOE SCARBOROUGH: “We all laughed at the same time Chuck!” TODD: “I know.” (MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” 8/1/11)

Senior Democratic Aide: “The President Got Rolled.” “One senior Senate Democratic aide said that averting a default was a victory of sorts for Obama, ‘but when you look at the emerging details, spending cuts and triggers with no revenue, the president got rolled.’” (Peter Wallsten and David Nakamura, “Did Obama Cpitulate – Or Is This A Cagey Move?” The Washington Post, 7/31/11)

“[Democratic Lawmakers] Fret That Obama Is An Inept Negotiator.” (Maureen Dowd, “Tempest in a Tea Party,” The New York Times7/30/11)

  • “As One Democratic Senator Complained: ‘The President Veers Between Talking Like A Peevish Professor And A Scolding Parent.’ (Not To Mention A Jilted Lover.) Another Moaned: ‘We Are Watching Him Turn Into Jimmy Carter Right Before Our Eyes.’” (Maureen Dowd, “Tempest In A Tea Party,” The New York Times7/30/11)

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