Friday, March 01, 2013

Somehow, Some Way, He Gets It Wrong

The nation now has gone over the cliff twice in the space of two months.  Amid predictions of the end of life as we know it- the meaning of going "over the cliff"- the President on January 2, 2013 signed the bill Congress had passed the previous day.  Apparently, that reversed gravity and sent the nation back onto the cliff.  However, the legislation merely delayed the day of reckoning two months, until March 1, 2013.

March 1 is here, and John McCain is incensed.  He asked rhetorically on Fox News "This is a dangerous world. We just saw this morning North Korea, the tensions are there, the centrifuges are spinning Tehran, the Middle East is in a state of unrest and one of these places could explode at any moment — and we’re going to have further cuts?"

Due primarily to House Republicans, President Obama, and the deficit scolds who told us for a couple of years that failure to reduce dramatically the deficit would send the nation hurtling into oblivion, reductions of $109 billion, divided equally between defense and non-discretionary domestic spending, are to take place over the next seven months.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 mandated further cuts, of $1.2 trillion, if a supercommittee could not come up with its own formula to slice the deficit.  Fortunately, however, Senator McCain boldly stood in opposition, determined that major decisions not be sloughed off to another committee, which passes for leadership in Washington.

Oh, wait- there has been a mistake.   It seems the senior Senator from Arizona, the 2008 Republican nominee for President, voted in favor of the Budget Control Act of 2011.   Now, having voted for a bill which takes a meat cleaver to both defense spending and domestic spending, he is alarmed.  He is alarmed- alarmed! that the reductions to defense he voted for will be taking place.

To be fair (which, as a liberal, is required), McCain charged also

In the campaign, the president of the United States said in two sentences that, one, sequestration won’t happen, obviously that was wrong.  And two, he said that it was Congress’ idea. We now find out from Mr. Woodward that was obviously not the case. It was not Congress’ idea. It was the White House’s idea. So we’re starting now with a credibility gap, at least in my view, that’s rather serious.

There, John-Boy almost has a point.  Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann (not this Thomas Mann) explain

The sequester’s origins can’t be blamed on one person — or one party. Republicans insisted on a trigger for automatic cuts; Jack Lew, then the White House budget director, suggested the specifics, modeled after a sequester-like mechanism Congress used in the 1980s, but with automatic tax increases added. Republicans rejected the latter but, at the time, took credit for the rest. Obama took the deal to get a debt-ceiling increase. But the president never accepted the prospect that the sequester would occur, nor did he ever agree to take tax increases off the table.

Bob Woodward had argued that the President had "moved the goalposts" by proposing additional revenues as part of the sequester.   In rebuttal, however, the latter's economic adviser, Gene Sperling, sent to Woodward (the now famous) e-mail in which he maintained

The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand bargain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start. It was an accepted part of the understanding — from the start. Really. It was assumed by the Rs on the Supercommittee that came right after: it was assumed in the November-December 2012 negotiations.

While the intransigent, tax-phobic GOP appeared to maneuver Obama into supporting a plan which might entail automatic spending cuts, the President's economic adviser acknowledges "the idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand bargain with a mix of entitlements and revenues."

John McCain despises Barack Obama and invariably finds a reason- generally a bad one- to attack the President.   That's o.k.; most of us have someone we really, really don't like.  But imagine the Arizonan facing a dartboard separated into equal sections of numbers of 1 to 20. Numbers 1 through 7 and 9 through 20 are winners.  John McCain, every time, hits on number 8.

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