Obama Deficit Dance Proves He Still Has Two Left Feet

April 14, 2011

Rather than Proposing Serious Deficit Reduction, Obama’s “Blistering Partisanship” And Liberal Policy Vision Rallies Left-Wing Support


Prior to Obama’s so-called deficit speech yesterday, liberal groups were fretting that their president would abandon them to reach out to swing voters with a serious, deficit-minded speech.


Just the opposite happened. Far from proposing responsible measures to reduce deficits, Obama’s “blistering partisanship” provided what many dubbed his first campaign speech of the 2012 election race and stressed his liberal bona fides:


POLITICO’S ROGER SIMON: OBAMA “TOLD LIBERALS HE STILL SHARES THEIR GOALS”: “It was supposed to be a number-packed speech about budgeting and spending and all manner of fiscal gobbledygook. Instead, it turned out to be a speech in which the president told liberals he still shares their goals and Democrats he is still one of them.” (Roger Simon, “Barack Obama to Soak Rich, Please Democrats,” Politico, 4/13/2011)


THE NEW YORK TIMES: “OBAMA SPEECH DEFENDS LIBERAL PRINCIPLES.”(Michael Shear, “Obama Speech Defends Liberal Principles,” The New York Times, 4/14/2011)


NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: OBAMA WAS “UNABASHEDLY PROGRESSIVE”: “Last week, President Obama announced that he was running for reelection, but his speech yesterday at George Washington University was the real kickoff for the 2012 campaign, a spirited defense of activist government that should reassure liberals about Obama’s adherence to basic progressive principles.” (Michael Cohen, “The Post-Post-Partisan Barack Obama: In Debt Speech, the President is Unabashedly Progressive,” New York Daily News, 4/14/2011)


ABC’s AMY WALTER: SPEECH NOT ABOUT “COMING UP WITH A BI-PARTISAN PLAN,” BUT “SETTING UP BATTLE LINES” FOR 2012: “This speech wasn’t so much about coming up with a bi-partisan plan to tackle the deficit as it was about setting up the battle lines for a 2012 campaign.


“While politicians on both sides of the aisle have stressed the need to ‘put it all on the table,’ the President made clear that he was leaving a lot on the floor. (Amy E. Walter, “Analysis: Obama’s Debt Speech Sounded Like Campaign Fare,” ABC News, 4/13/2011)


MORE WALTER: SPEECH SHOULD “BANISH” TALK OF OBAMA LOSING LIBERALS. “Remember all that talk this A.M. about Obama losing liberals? This speech should banish such talk #debt #deficit” (Tweet from Amy E. Walter, ABC News, 4/13/2011)


THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: OBAMA’S “BLISTERING PARTISANSHIP” IS “TOXIC”: “Did someone move the 2012 election to June 1? We ask because President Obama’s extraordinary response to Paul Ryan’s budget yesterday—with its blistering partisanship and multiple distortions—was the kind Presidents usually outsource to some junior lieutenant. Mr. Obama’s fundamentally political document would have been unusual even for a Vice President in the fervor of a campaign.” (Editorial Board, “The Presidential Divider,” The Wall Street Journal, 4/14/2011)


Sure enough, liberal groups and bloggers rallied to Obama following his speech, endeared by his insistence on tax increases and left-wing policy vision:


LIBERAL BLOGGER JONATHAN BERNSTEIN: PRESIDENT “GAVE STRONGEST CASE FOR A LIBERAL VISION OF GOVERNMENT” TO DATE: “Liberals have wanted a full-throated affirmation of why government is a good thing. …Obama delivered, with perhaps his strongest case for a liberal vision of government that he’s given so far during his presidency.” (Michael Shear, “Obama Speech Defends Liberal Principles,” The New York Times, 4/14/2011)


WASHINGTON MONTHLY BLOGGER STEVE BENEN: “ESPECIALLY SATISFYING” DEFENSE OF BIG GOVERNMENT: “[W]hat made his remarks this afternoon especially satisfying was his defense of the progressive vision. The president made a point of reminding his audience that government, the institutions of the modern welfare state, and the modern social compact are worthy of a spirited defense.” (Michael Shear, “Obama Speech Defends Liberal Principles,” The New York Times, 4/14/2011)


CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: “Today the president laid out a sensible, responsible, and realistic approach to deficit reduction that dramatically alters the trajectory of our country’s fiscal future. The president’s plan puts us on a much more sustainable path, and most importantly, would do so without putting further burdens on seniors and an already-struggling middle class.” (Megan Smith, “STATEMENT: CAP: President’s Plan is Sensible, Responsible, and Realistic but More Revenues Could Be Added for Additional Savings,” Center for American Progress, 4/13/2011)


AFL-CIO: “Today, President Obama gave a promise to America’s working people that he wouldn’t follow the path of the radical Republican fiscal agenda that leads to lost jobs and a national decline of standards. That commitment is essential at this crucial moment for children, students, seniors and everyone who hopes for a secure economic future.” (Statement from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, “Obama Rejects Radical Republican Fiscal Agenda,” AFL-CIO, 4/13/2011)

“The President laid out a commonsense approach to restoring fairness to our tax system. We agree with the President that sacrifices must be made if we are to tackle our financial challenges. These sacrifices must be shared by all and not directed at those among us who can least afford it.” (Statement from President Mary Kay Henry, “SEIU: Obama Right to Call for Tax Fairness, Shared Sacrifice, Protecting and Preserving Medicare, Medicaid,” SEIU, 4/13/2011)


Indeed, Obama’s fierce attacks on Republicans and calls for tax increases, albeit in evasive language, were standard Democrat boilerplate. But they were also a sharp flip-flop from Obama’s own call for a more civilized conversation on deficit reduction:


OBAMA, JAN 2010: “I raise that because we’re not going to be able to do anything about any of these entitlements if what we do is characterize whatever proposals are put out there as, ‘Well, you know, that’s — the other party’s being irresponsible. The other party is trying to hurt our senior citizens. That the other party is doing X, Y, Z.’ …


“That’s why I say if we’re going to frame these debates in ways that allow us to solve them, then we can’t start off by figuring out, A, who’s to blame; B, how can we make the American people afraid of the other side.” (President Barack Obama, “Remarks By President at GOP House Issues Conference”, The White House, 1/29/10)


OBAMA, APRIL 13, 2011: GOP WILL ATTACK “SOMEONE’S GRANDPARENTS,” “POOR CHILDREN,” “CHILDREN WITH AUTISM OR DOWN’S SYNDROME”:“One vision has been championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives and embraced by several of their party’s presidential candidates…This is a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit.  And who are those 50 million Americans?  Many are someone’s grandparents who wouldn’t be able afford nursing home care without Medicaid.  Many are poor children.  Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s syndrome.  Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care.  These are the Americans we’d be telling to fend for themselves.” (Jake Tapper, “Throw Grandma From the Train,” ABC News’s Political Punch, 4/13/2011)