Michael Barone

One way to counter this, as some Republicans have figured out, is to call for elimination of travel for conventions and meetings. Voters suspect, probably rightly, that most of these are a waste of time and money.

The larger point is that it's very hard to predict public reaction to things that haven't happened. And that applies to the next budget issue down the road, the expiration of the continuing resolution on March 27.

Translated into English, the government will not have money to function then unless Congress takes some action to fund it.

House Republicans are aware of this and have reportedly been preparing a continuing resolution funding the government until September at sequester levels and also giving the Defense Department leeway to apportion the cuts according to priorities rather than across the board.

They might consider giving the same leeway to Homeland Security. (Disclosure of personal interest: I'm a frequent flyer.)

Obama says that would be unacceptable without revenue increases. But Senate Democrats have been quoted anonymously as saying they would pretty much have to go along.

That would leave Obama in an uncomfortable position. A veto would defund the government. Does he want to do that when the Democratic-majority Senate as well as the Republican-controlled House has given him a viable alternative?

For Senate Democrats to take that course would be a recognition that this president is irrelevant to fixing our fiscal problems. They would be working around him, as they did during the debt ceiling battle in summer 2011.

Second-term presidents usually try to advance some major policy initiative rather than engage in campaign-style conflicts with the congressional opposition.

Ronald Reagan pushed successfully for tax reform and emerged with job approval high enough to withstand the Iran-contra scandal.

Bill Clinton fashioned a balanced budget package with Speaker Newt Gingrich. Clinton's job approval actually rose after the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal broke.

George W. Bush tried for Social Security reform. That effort foundered in the face of Democratic opposition and Republican reluctance, and his job approval suffered.

Obama balks at addressing entitlement reform and tries to score points against Republicans. But in the long run, discord and disarray don't help an incumbent president accomplish anything.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM


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