Politico: Say, This President Doesn't Seem Too Interested In Budget Leadership, Does He?

Posted: Mar 15, 2011 8:49 AM
It's not just Republicans (and some Democrats) who aren't enamored with the White House's preposterous line that the president is just too darned busy "leading the country" to spare the time to, well, lead on the budget.  Obama's calculated unwillingness to lead on this count is so glaring that even the mainstream media is starting to pile on:

When President Barack Obama opened the first meeting of his fiscal commission last April, he promised to be “standing with them” as they produced recommendations for curbing the nation’s escalating debt.  Republicans and Democrats say they are still waiting.

While Obama has said he’s committed to deficit reduction, he has also has made clear it is secondary, at least for now, to his “winning the future” agenda.

Obama’s reluctance to join the debate in a sustained way has provoked rising frustration among lawmakers from both parties, who are speaking more forcefully about what they view as his absenteeism on one of the most pressing issues before them.

Administration aides said Obama fully supports efforts to tackle the country’s long-term budget problems but that it is Washington — not the public — that is agitating for the president to wade into every legislative debate. This is a subtle shift in strategy from the past two years, when the president could be mistaken for a prime minister, expending much of his political capital in ushering bills through Congress.

Of course the president "fully supports" efforts to tackle the country's long-term budget problems, the White House assures us.  He just doesn't want to be closely associated with said efforts at the moment because they represent a political minefield.  Instead, he's more than content to offer up a mind-blogglingly irresponsible budget and lie like hell about it. 

Hey, there's an election coming up next year, folks.  It's not like this guy showed up on national television claiming he'd gladly forgo a second term if it meant doing the right thing in his first four years, right?  No, he's above that brand of "politics as usual."  Cheap gestures of feigned earnestness just won't satisfy the fierce urgency of now.  No, we're told, this is a president who favors decisive action (except when that action is politically risky, in which case, never mind).

In the eyes of deficit hawks, Obama has passed up several opportunities to push the issue to the center of his agenda.

He convened the fiscal commission last February, a move cast as an attempt to start an adult conversation about a metastasizing problem. It was quintessential Obama — the professor who likes to take the long view and serve up a bit of castor oil because it’s the right thing to do.

“Everything is on the table,” he said at the time. “That’s how this thing is going to work.”

When the commission chairmen offered their final recommendations in December, several months after Obama promised that he would be “standing with them,” the president declined to endorse the report, saying only that it was important work that he would study closely.

He "closely studied" his own commission's recommendations, then merrily ignored them.  Now his administration seems perturbed that people are underwhelmed by his performance.  Speaker Boehner has publicly stated that House Republicans are prepared to "lock arms" with the president and endorse some very unpopular measures to start draining the debt sea if he is willing to take the lead and be a good faith partner.  Under that scenario, everyone involved would have electoral cover to enact politically-precarious reforms to the large entitlement programs both sides agree are the main drivers of long-term debt.  It's clear Obama is unwilling to take up Boehner's offer, preferring to bolster his re-election chances by evading political liability.  Another punt.  Another "present."