Yet the president is so eager to start spending the people's money he can barely be trifled to acknowledge the growing debt as a concern. When backed into a corner, all he can do is attack the credibility of his critics on the issue, as if pointing fingers at the other kid in the schoolyard either exculpates him or addresses the problem.Twice during his tightly controlled prime-time marketing infomercial, billed as his first presidential news conference, he aimed partisan fire at Republicans for daring to raise the issue.
He said: "When it comes to how we approach the issue of fiscal responsibility … it's a little hard for me to take criticism from folks about this recovery package after they've presided over a doubling of the national debt. I'm not sure they have a lot of credibility when it comes to fiscal responsibility."
He used the same specious argument to deflect another objection to the bill: that it's long on pork and short on stimulus. He said, "First of all, when I hear that from folks who presided over a doubling of the national debt … I just want them to not engage in some revisionist history. I inherited the deficit … and the economic crisis that we have right now."
The Bush administration is certainly vulnerable to the charge that it spent way too much. Unfortunately for the always-campaigning President Obama, however, this is not a valid response to the question of whether he should spend more now.
The relevant question is not which party is guiltier but what is the right thing to do. Even if the Republicans were the worst hypocrites in the history of the universe, would that make it any more prudent for President Obama to embark on a mission to trump them? Indeed, that he is citing GOP fiscal profligacy as an excuse and license for more just confirms that debt is not on his mind; government debt is never on a liberal's mind except as a tactic to win arguments or elections.
Another argument Obama often invokes to divert attention from the debt elephant in the room is that he has a mandate to proceed.