Thursday, June 30, 2011

Harry Truman? Oh, Please.

Chris Matthew led off Hardball last night declaring

|Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews down in Washington. Leading off tonight: Wild about Harry -- Truman, that is. President Obama called out a do-nothing Congress today, saying Congress needs to stop taking vacations and do its job. He shaped the battlefield for both 2011 and 2012.

A moment later, he would make it worse (or, in the cliche of the day, he "doubled down"), adding

Let me finish, by the way, with the president of the United States finally telling the Republicans, in his own way, he`s mad as hell and he`s not going to take it anymore. We start with President Obama`s press conference today, including those hot words.

Oooh- the Republicans are scared. So intimidated that House Speaker John Boehner

laid out clear criteria for a deal that could pass the Republican-controlled House: spending cuts that exceed the debt limit increase, long-term solutions for reining in spending, and no tax increases.

“The longer the president denies these realities, the more difficult he makes this process,” Boehner said. “If the president embraces a measure that meets these tests, he has my word that the House will act on it. Anything less cannot pass the House.”

In the opening statement to the press conference (transcript here) the President held yesterday, Obama explained

Over the last few weeks, the Vice President has been leading negotiations with Democrats and Republicans on this issue, and they’ve made some real progress in narrowing down the differences. As of last week, both parties had identified more than $1 trillion worth of spending cuts already.

But everyone also knows that we’ll need to do more to close the deficit. We can’t get to the $4 trillion in savings that we need by just cutting the 12 percent of the budget that pays for things like medical research and education funding and food inspectors and the weather service. And we can’t just do it by making seniors pay more for Medicare. So we’re going to need to look at the whole budget, as I said several months ago. And we’ve got to eliminate waste wherever we find it and make some tough decisions about worthy priorities.

And that means trimming the defense budget, while still meeting our security needs. It means we’ll have to tackle entitlements, as long as we keep faith with seniors and children with disabilities by maintaining the fundamental security that Medicare and Medicaid provide. And, yes, we’re going to have to tackle spending in the tax code.

The President's team already has agreed to more than $1 trillion of spending reductions and promises to cut more than "the 12 percent of the budget that pays for things like...." Uncomfortable with the political advantage the Ryan Kill Medicare Budget gives his party, Obama promises to "tackle entitlements." And the GOP interprets"tackle spending in the tax code" as slash, slash, slash spending and taxes.

The President a moment later adds "The tax cuts I’m proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires; tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers and corporate jet owners." But as Digby notes, "It’s the Democratic equivalent of Republicans pretending that the deficit can be closed by cutting PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts.." While the GOP is "all-in on splashing spending," she recognizes," so are Democrats, except they want some symbolic tax increases on some symbolic rich people to make the medicine go down a little bit more smoothly." Eliminating the tax breaks on corporate jets, while a fine idea, nevertheless would save only around $3 billion over ten years.

When the President says, as he did yesterday, "Call me naïve, but my expectation is that leaders are going to lead," the temptation is to say: "O.K., you are naive. Clearly." But it is hardly likely, given this President's experience in negotiating with Republicans, that he would think that he could give away the far- or about 83% of it- and then expect the other side to give in and compromise, even a little. The Administration repeatedly has sounded the alarm about the danger of not raising the debt ceiling but has chosen not to make a concerted effort to explain it to the American people, leaving the latter opposed, and the former practically begging Republicans to be responsible ("my expectation is that they'll do the responsible thing"). The GOP leadership has little incentive to come to any agreement until 11:59 p.m., once it has wrenched the maximum number of concessions from the President.

Yesterday, President Obama assured the public of the good intentions of the GOP, claiming "it’s not often that Washington sees both parties agree on the scale and the urgency of the challenge at hand. Nobody wants to put the creditworthiness of the United States in jeopardy." That may be naivete in extremis or the plea of a President who is willing to nudge the nation back into recession as long as he is perceived as bipartisan. But Harry Truman it's not.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I actually saw this episode as well, and I think Matthew's has really become removed from reality in his interpretation of events. The comparison to Truman based on one or two lines in Obama's press conference was ridiculous. If anything, Obama appears weak and ineffective, always couching his comments and showing more scorn for the ridiculousness of republicans than passion for his stance. His attempt to shift all blame to Congress (e.g. "my kids do homework a day before it's due") was also childish.



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