Yesterday, I authored a lengthy piece dismantling the panoply of distortions embedded within President Obama's caustic speech on the Republican budget proposal. Incredibly, the White House is now insisting the hyper-partisan address wasn't at all political. Since I published my analysis, a number of others have weighed in on the subject, and I'd commend several for your consideration: The Associated Press' fact-check on Obama's ideological drift, James Capretta's important examination of revenues and outlays, the Wall Street Journal's damning editorial on Obama's unpresidential scare tactics (I particularly enjoyed the Hunger Games allusion), and Yuval Levin's exposition on the crucial distinction between slowing spending increases vs. spending "cuts."
More important than any of these critiques, however, was today's direct response from the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Mitt Romney's rebuttal was serious, sober, and -- at times -- absolutely devastating. After engaging the gathering of journalists on issues pertaining to and freedom the press, Romney laid out his vision for America's future and offered an unsparing assessment of Obama's failures and deflections. Every American voter ought to watch Romney's remarks (I've pulled out some choice quotes below) and the president's harangue in succession. Yes, this process requires more than one hour of attention -- but the stakes are extraordinarily high. I've included both clips below to make this task as convenient as possible. These are the competing ideas, policies, solutions (or lack thereof), temperaments, and executive resumes between which Americans must choose in November:
President Obama’s comments to President Medvedev are deeply troubling. That incident calls his candor into serious question. He does not want to share his real plans before the election, either with the public or with the press. By flexibility, he means that “what the American public doesn't know won't hurt him.” He is intent on hiding. You and I will have to do the seeking...Oon what other issues will he state his true position only after the election is over? But instead of answering those vital questions, President Obama came here yesterday and railed against arguments no one is making – and criticized policies no one is proposing. It’s one of his favorite strategies – setting up straw men to distract from his record. And while I understand why the President doesn’t want to run on his record, he can’t run from his record either. As I have said many times before, the President did not cause the economic crisis, but he made it worse. He delayed the recovery, and made it anemic. When he took office, millions of Americans looked to him to turn around the economy and lead us back to full employment. He failed these Americans. The first three rules of any turnaround are focus, focus, and focus ... The President's attention was elsewhere--like a government takeover of healthcare and apologizing for America abroad.
...Through it all, President Obama has failed to even pass a budget. In February, he put forward a proposal that included the largest tax increase in history, and still left our national debt spiraling out of control. The House rejected it unanimously ... Of course, no fiscal challenge is greater than the one we face with entitlements. As the President himself acknowledged three years ago, this is not a problem that we can kick down the road any further. I’d be willing to consider the President’s plan, but he doesn’t have one. That’s right: In over three years, he has failed to enact or even propose a serious plan to solve our entitlement crisis. Instead, he has taken a series of steps that end Medicare as we know it.
A couple of months ago, we saw a fascinating exchange on Capitol Hill that epitomized not only this administration’s inaction on entitlements, but also its appalling lack of leadership. The President’s Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, was testifying before Congress. And Congressman Paul Ryan – who, unlike this President, has had the courage to offer serious solutions to the problems we face – was pressing Geithner on the administration’s failure to lead on entitlement reform. Geithner's response was this: “We are not coming before you today to say we have a definitive solution to that long term problem. What we do know is we don’t like yours.” Take a moment and think about that: We don’t have a solution. All we know is we don’t like yours. It almost makes one long for the days when the President simply led from behind.
Needless to say, I was delighted to see Romney cite Tim Geithner's revealing quote, upbraid Obama for his cynical reliance on straw men, and deftly turn Democrats' "ending Medicare as we know it" refrain against them. The former governor then proceeded to summarize his ideas, including politically difficult but unquestionably necessary (see Capretta's post linked above) steps to reform entitlements. Contrast this address with the president's partisan demagoguery, adolescent blame-shift, and empty appeals to an out-of-touch concept of "fairness:"
Absent an unforeseen and stunning development, one of these two men will take the oath of office next January. The choice should be crystal clear for any citizen who considers him- or herself a member of America's center-right majority. I'll leave you with a fun video, pieced together by the Examiner. It shows the audience of AP journalists and editors rising as one for an enthusiastic standing ovation following Obama's speech, then sitting and tepidly applauding after Romney concluded. Is anyone surprised?