Guy Benson

Rather than seethe over President Obama's ongoing sequester-related demagoguery, Crossroads GPS has produced a web ad that duly notes that the cuts were Obama's idea to begin with, and pokes fun at his apocalyptic scare-tactics:
 


 

I especially enjoyed the audio clip at the tail end in which Obama laments the exhausting merry-go-round of "manufactured" crises, for which his party is almost exclusively responsible.  And how does the president behave during these standoffs?  New York Times columnist David Brooks -- a long-time admirer of Obama's, all the way down to his sartorial elegance -- identifies a pattern of behavior:
 

Under the Permanent Campaign Shimmy, the president identifies a problem. Then he declines to come up with a proposal to address the problem. Then he comes up with a vague-but-politically-convenient concept that doesn’t address the problem (let’s raise taxes on the rich). Then he goes around the country blasting the opposition for not having as politically popular a concept. Then he returns to Washington and congratulates himself for being the only serious and substantive person in town. Sequestration allows the White House to do this all over again. The president hasn’t actually come up with a proposal to avert sequestration, let alone one that is politically plausible. He does have a vague and politically convenient concept. (Tax increases on the rich!) He does have a chance to lead the country into a budget showdown with furloughed workers and general mayhem, for which people will primarily blame Republicans. And he does have the chance to achieve the same thing he has achieved so frequently over the past two years, political success and legislative mediocrity.


Such leadership.  Politico reports today that Obama hasn't even made a serious attempt to engage Republicans in a substantive negotiation over replacing the sequestration cuts.  Why?  Because he's supremely confident in his ability to win the PR campaign (and why wouldn't he be?):
 

He has been so certain of his campaign skills that he didn’t open a line of communication with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell until Thursday, a week before the spending ax hits. And when they did finally hear from Obama, the calls were perfunctory, with no request to step up negotiations or invitations to the White House. That’s because Obama’s all-in on an outside strategy, doing just about everything other than holding serious talks with Republicans. In the last two days alone, he’s courted local TV anchors, called in a select group of White House correspondents to talk off the record, chatted up black broadcasters and announced plans to stump next week at Virginia’s Newport News Shipyard.

Throughout, he’s talked in tough terms that signal little interest in compromise — or suggestion of backing down. He’s navigating a thin line. Obama is convinced he’s got the upper hand on Republicans. Yet he can go only so long before he risks being perceived as a main actor in Washington’s dysfunction, threatening a core element of his political brand — and the fragile economic recovery he’s struggled to maintain. The calls placed Thursday to Boehner and McConnell were prompted, in part, by a White House desire to inoculate Obama from that exact criticism.


So the "perfunctory" calls to Republican leaders were only placed in order to let Obama check the box of claiming to have reached out in good faith.  It's abundantly clear that optics, not productive governance, is Obama's overwhelming priority.  His goal is to push the Republican brand to a point of such toxicity that his party stands a chance to regain total control of Congress, thus enabling him to preside over another 2009-esque liberal policy binge.  Meanwhile, Obama pretends that trimming 2.4 percent (or less) from this year's $3.6 trillion in outlays will tear apart the fabric of civil society.  These aren't even cuts, as normal people might imagine them.  They're reductions to our increase in spending.  We're still projected to spend more in 2013 than we did in 2012.  Rush Limbaugh is disgusted:
 


 

Everyone agrees that the sequester cuts aren't ideal.  But are they disastrous?  Larry Kudlow and Byron York are dubious -- as are the Wall Street Journal's editors, who provide a useful economic history lesson:  
 

Mr. Obama warned that the sequester will "hurt our economic growth [and] add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls." But hasn't Mr. Obama been telling us that the economy is coming back and the stock market is up? Mr. Obama just whacked the economy with a roughly $160 billion tax increase in 2013 that he says will do no harm, but he wants us to believe that $85 billion in spending cuts will trigger a recession. The sequester shaves the equivalent of about 0.25% of GDP when offsetting it against the extra money the feds are spending on Sandy relief. After World War II federal spending fell from 42% of GDP to 14.8% in two years, yet the private economy and employment roared back to life. In the 1980s domestic spending fell by about two percentage points of GDP and in the 1990s it fell by more than three. Those were decades of government austerity but rapid growth in private output and wealth. Mr. Obama has taken government spending from 21% to 24% of GDP, yet we've had the weakest economic recovery in three generations.


Perhaps the president could answer these points if he weren't too busy stoking rage over corporate jets and other such nonsense.


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography