I tackled today's presidential press conference in my column, which is available on the home page. It's an expanded riff on an observation my friend Mary Katharine Ham has made many times: Today's Barack Obama doesn't seem the least bit constrained or concerned by what yesterday's Barack Obama may have done or said -- about anything:
The president talked quite a lot about the pressing and imperative need to strike a comprehensive debt deal this morning. Largely reprising his hectoring performance of June 29th, Obama called on both sides to sacrifice their respective sacred cows to facilitate an agreement post-haste. Such a visionary pragmatist. Except...this latest incarnation of Barack Obama seems to have forgotten that a previous one was demanding a "clean" debt ceiling hike as recently as six weeks ago. Out: We must hike this debt ceiling without any grand deal immediately! In: We must reach a grand deal to hike the debt ceiling immediately! No matter; new day, new paradigm. Head spin.
[Quote 1] To oppose a debt limit increase would be patently "irresponsible," today's Barack Obama intoned -- an apparent repudiation of 2006's Barack Obama, who did precisely that. "Revenue increases" are "fair" and essential, today's Barack Obama insisted -- contradicting 2009's Barack Obama, who noted that raising taxes is "the last thing you want to do" in a sluggish economy. Head spin.
Given the fairly limited scope of the column, I was unable to highlight several additional jaw-droppers served up by President Obama today. Greg already flagged one of them [Quote 2], in which the president celebrates the surpassing wisdom of "professional politicians" vis-a-vis the debt ceiling debate. (He's right that a national default would have dire consequences, but it's still rather intolerable listening to a professional politician condescendingly explain why he and his ilk -- the very people who've caused the debt crisis -- possess special knowledge that eludes the masses).
A few more presidential nuggets that caught my attention:
(3) Never fear, taxes won't increase (again) -- until after my re-election!
(4) Let's face it, we rich folk have a bunch of income we "don't need" (I'd direct the president to the same friendly advice I offered his ideological kin, the "patriotic millionaires"):
I do not want, and I will not accept, a deal in which I am asked to do nothing, in fact, I’m able to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income that I don’t need, while a parent out there who is struggling to figure out how to send their kid to college suddenly finds that they’ve got a couple thousand dollars less in grants or student loans.
(5) The Statist worldview, distilled:
We’re not out here trying to use this as a means of doing all these really tough political things. I’d rather be talking about stuff that everybody welcomes — like new programs...
(6) Yes, exactly:
...You may hear the argument that why not just go ahead and do all the cuts and we can debate the revenue issues in the election — right? You’ll hear that from some Republicans. The problem is, is that if you don’t do the revenues, then to get the same amount of savings you’ve got to have more cuts.
(7) Empty, easily-rebutted bravado:
I might add it is the primary solution that the Republicans have offered when it comes to jobs. They keep on going out there and saying, “Mr. President, what are you doing about jobs?” And when you ask them, well, what would you do? “We’ve got to get government spending under control and we’ve got to get our deficits under control.” So I say, okay, let’s go. Where are they? I mean, this is what they claim would be the single biggest boost to business certainty and confidence. So what’s the holdup?
Where are Republicans, you ask? They're defending their outlay-curbing, deficit-reducing budget from an endless barrage of demagogic smears and lies from Democrats, that's where. And while we're on the subject, where's your party's budget proposal? 802 days and counting...
(8) Business leaders support a "balanced package" (ie, tax hikes)...in private, of course:
I have spoken extensively to business leaders. And I’ll be honest with you. I think that business leaders in the abstract want to see a resolution to this problem. What I’ve found is that they are somewhat hesitant to weigh in on some of these issues even if they’re willing to say something privately to me, partly because they’ve got a whole bunch of business pending before Congress and they don’t want to make anybody mad.
(9) Let's lick the debt problem so we can get back to the business of stimulating job growth through federal infrastructure spending:
What we can do is to solve this underlying debt and deficit problem for a long period of time so that then we can get back to having a conversation about, all right, since we now have solved this problem, that’s not — no longer what’s hampering economic growth, that’s not feeding business and uncertainty, everybody feels that the ground is stable under our feet, are there some strategies that we could pursue that would really focus on some targeted job growth — infrastructure being a primary example.
I mean, the infrastructure bank that we’ve proposed is relatively small. But could we imagine a project where we’re rebuilding roads and bridges and ports and schools and broadband lines and smart grids, and taking all those construction workers and putting them to work right now? I can imagine a very aggressive program like that that I think the American people would rally around and would be good for the economy not just next year or the year after, but for the next 20 or 30 years.
Doesn't that plan sound familiar?
I mean, the vast majority of Democrats on Capitol Hill would prefer not to have to do anything on entitlements; would prefer, frankly, not to have to do anything on some of these debt and deficit problems. And I’m sympathetic to their concerns, because they’re looking after folks who are already hurting and already vulnerable, and there are a lot of families out there and seniors who are dependent on some of these programs.
If you missed this mess, be thankful.