Free Markets, Free People
Surprisingly, AP does it (credit where credit is due). They cover the “spending freeze” (it would amount to less than 1% of the deficit) which we’ve covered in some detail. They also point out that the nonsense about the health care plan preserving the “right” of Americans to keep their doctor and their plan isn’t exactly true (we’ve covered that before as well). And they take on the claim about lobbyists which Michael has handled quite well below.
AP also talks about the deficit commission that Obama covered last night:
Obama: “I’ve called for a bipartisan fiscal commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad. This can’t be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem. The commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline. Yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I will issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans.”
THE FACTS: Any commission that Obama creates would be a weak substitute for what he really wanted — a commission created by Congress that could force lawmakers to consider unpopular remedies to reduce the debt, including curbing politically sensitive entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. That idea crashed in the Senate this week, defeated by equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. Any commission set up by Obama alone would lack authority to force its recommendations before Congress, and would stand almost no chance of success.
The key line is in bold. Any commission formed by executive order will have no authority over Congress. Thus it will be a “gimmick” designed to “pretend we solved a problem”. How can it be anything else?
As Obama mentioned the Senate blocked a bill that would have created the commission. The same Senate that today used its 60 vote supermajority to pass a 1.9 trillion dollar hike to the debt ceiling. So you can draw your own conclusions as to how serious the party that can muster 60 votes for raising the debt ceiling but can’t manage to get those same 60 votes to pass a deficit commission is about the debt and cutting spending.
Another one covered by AP has to do with the claim of 2 million jobs saved or created by the “stimulus”. By their calculation and those of CBO, it may – let me stress that word – may have been in the range of 600,000 to possibly 1.6 million. Yeah – with tight numbers like that, you can bet they know what they’re talking about.
That brings us to Obama’s quote about transparency in which he calls on the White House and Congress to “do our work openly and give our people the government they deserve”. Most of the people have awakened to the fact that after not vetting the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, we have the government we deserve. However, AP points out that Obama just skipped past all the broken transparency pledges he made and hasn’t even attempted to keep. Why in the world would anyone take his latest plea for transparency seriously?
You may or may not remember one of the few mentions of foreign policy last night – other than the usual tough talk toward Iran, most likely signifying nothing in reality – in which he claimed, “The United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades.”
Yeah, well, not quite. According to AP:
Despite insisting early last year that they would complete the negotiations in time to avoid expiration of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in early December, the U.S. and Russia failed to do so. And while officials say they think a deal on a new treaty is within reach, there has been no breakthrough. A new round of talks is set to start Monday. One important sticking point: disagreement over including missile defense issues in a new accord. If completed, the new deal may arguably be the farthest-reaching arms control treaty since the original 1991 agreement. An interim deal reached in 2002 did not include its own rules on verifying nuclear reductions.
And one of my favorite claims of the night – I’ve killed more terrorists than Bush did in 2008:
“And in the last year, hundreds of al-Qaida’s fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed — far more than in 2008.”
Not so fast, says AP:
It is an impossible claim to verify. Neither the Bush nor the Obama administration has published enemy body counts, particularly those targeted by armed drones in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. The pace of drone attacks has increased dramatically in the last 18 months, according to congressional officials briefed on the secret program.
If it is an “impossible claim to verify” then Obama knew when he said it, that he was safe from scrutiny. Nice. I have four words for those who choose to believe his claim: “saved and created jobs”.
Last but not least we turn to PoltiFact for the SCOTUS shot by Obama:
“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections.”
Politifact says that if it’s true, it is “barely true”. They have a very fine write up which I encourage you to read about why Justice Alito may have been absolutely justified in his silently mouthed “not true” as Obama took that shot. And I have to say, trying to humiliate the SCOTUS in a public speech with them sitting right there open to such ridicule is a politically stupid stunt. They are, after all, still human beings, and I wouldn’t want to be arguing a case for the Obama administration that could go either way after POTUS called SCOTUS out. They’re not underlings like the JCS who have to sit there and take it. They are members of an equal and separate branch. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of that little bit of political stupidity.
President Obama went after Washington lobbyists in a big way last night, blaming them for what ails America in a major portion of his State of the Union speech.
In his State of the Union on Wednesday, Obama once again targeted K Street: “We face a deficit of trust — deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap, we have to take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue — to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; to give our people the government they deserve.”
But that was yesterday. Today his administration reached out to those same lobbyists to help pass Obama’s agenda:
A day after bashing lobbyists, President Barack Obama’s administration has invited K Street insiders to join private briefings on a range of topics addressed in Wednesday’s State of the Union.
The Treasury Department on Thursday morning invited selected individuals to “a series of conference calls with senior Obama administration officials to discuss key aspects of the State of the Union address.” …
The invitation stated, “The White House is encouraging you to participate in these calls and will have a question and answer session at the end of each call. As a reminder, these calls are not intended for press purposes.”
Like a secret mistress, K-Streeters are not exactly thrilled with Obama demonizing them in public and then requesting their expertise behind closed doors:
Some lobbyists say they are extremely frustrated with the White House for criticizing them and then seeking their feedback. Others note that Democrats on Capitol Hill constantly urge them to make political donations.
One lobbyist said, “Bash lobbyists, then reach out to us. Bash lobbyists [while] I have received four Democratic invitations for fundraisers.”
Lobbyists say the Obama White House has held many off-the-record teleconferences over the past year.
For example, lobbyists and others were invited to a teleconference with “senior Obama administration officials” on Monday to discuss the administration’s plan to improve the lives of middle-class families.
The invitation, which is addressed to “Friends,” emphasizes in bold and italics that “this call is for background information only and not intended for press purposes.” It advises callers to tell the operator “you’re joining the ‘White House Briefing Call.’ ”
Another lobbyist said these types of teleconferences occur “all the time.”
And that is why many on K Street are exasperated with Obama’s use of lobbyists as a punching bag. Some have said they understood why he used strong rhetoric on the campaign trail but are irritated the White House solicits their opinions while Obama’s friends in Congress badger them for political donations.
That politicians court special interests is nothing new, nor is their blatant prevarication and hypocrisy when it comes to claiming to “work for the people.” Yet publicly targeting specific groups for opprobrium in order to drum up public support, and then immediately running to that very same group for their help, is a whole special class of slimy. Who is it, exactly, that Obama thinks he’s backstabbing? The electorate? The lobbyists? Indeed, why should anyone trust him at all? And all of this in the name of transparency.
Judging by his actions, Obama thinks “transparency” means “clearly lying”.
Not a day after the President’s speech telling us how important deficit reduction is, Democrats in the Senate have successfully passed a bill which will raise the debt limit by 1.9 trillion. And it was passed because Senator-elect Scott Brown hasn’t yet been seated and Teddy Kennedy surrogate Paul Kirk, cast the deciding 60th vote.
Senate Democrats needed all the 60 votes at their disposal Thursday to muscle through legislation allowing the government to go $1.9 trillion deeper in debt.
Democratic leaders were able to prevail on the politically volatile 60-39 vote only because Republican Sen.-elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts has yet to be seated. Republicans had insisted on a 60-vote, super-majority threshhold to pass the measure. An earlier test vote succeeded on a 60-40 vote.
The measure would would put the government on track for a national debt of $14.3 trillion — about $45,000 for every American — and it served as a vivid reminder of the United States’ dire fiscal straits.
And that after all the happy talk about the serious need for deficit reduction and how committed the president and, one assumes, his party was to that goal. How serious is he? Remember this?
Now, I know that some in my own party will argue that we can’t address the deficit or freeze government spending when so many are still hurting. And I agree — which is why this freeze won’t take effect until next year when the economy is stronger. That’s how budgeting works. But understand –- understand if we don’t take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery -– all of which would have an even worse effect on our job growth and family incomes.
The usual presidential double talk – deficit reduction is important, but I’ve decided it is more important to spend more money this year despite my claim we have to reduce the deficit. I’m sorry but that quote is word salad. We must address the deficit and freeze spending but we can’t address the deficit or freeze spending even though not doing so may “have an even worse effect on our job growth and family incomes?”
Oh, that effect won’t be until after next year’s freeze? Oh, ok – spend away.
Do you see how asinine this explanation is?
And, as expected, that 15 to 25 billion “freeze” is all he mentioned as his attempt to address the deficit – again, not at all the actions of someone serious about deficit or debt reduction. More smoke and mirrors with the final act being a claim he’ll veto any bill that tries to melt that freeze. Meantime he and the Dems are raising the debt ceiling by 1.9 trillion and we’re supposed to ignore that and buy into his piddling deficit reduction scheme which doesn’t even start until next year.
Don’t know about you, but this debt increase sounds like the perfect time to wield that veto pen to me. I mean if he’s actually serious about deficit and debt reduction as he claims.
But apparently, Barack Obama still thinks it does. Unfortunately, for him, many Democrats in Congress don’t agree. Mary Landrieu for one:
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said health care reform “is on life support, unfortunately,” and the president should have been more specific with how Democrats should move forward.
“He should have been more clear, and I am hoping that in the next week or two he will because that is what it is going to take if it is at all possible to get it done,” Landrieu told reporters. “Mailing in general suggestions, sending them over the transom, is not necessarily going to work.”
Obama’s been mailing it in for a year. Leadership in this particular case is when someone takes the lead in giving direction to the legislative product and process so when it ends up in Congress, the kinks have been worked out on both sides before they vote and enough are happy with the product that it is able to pass both chambers. Presidents have been involved in that sort of leadership since there’s been a presidency. However, it seems it’s a foreign concept to Mr. Obama. It appears he believes that Congress should take his nebulous and sometimes contradictory musings and mumblings and put a coherent bill together which is satisfactory to all sides. The “from on high” pontificating that apparently some scribes at lower levels are supposed to faithfully record and from which they are to somehow fashion acceptable legislation that will quickly pass doesn’t seem to be working, does it?
That’s not how presidents in the past have lead and it certainly doesn’t appear the Obama brand of non-leadership is having much success. Landrieu is trying to be as tactful as possible with her “mail it in” comment, but it is apparent that they have seen nothing in terms of presidential leadership on this issue (or others). So they keep wandering in circles fighting among themselves (something else a leader would attempt to stop vs. standing at a podium and chastising them for his lack of leadership) and have produced a monstrosity of a bill which they can only pass via parliamentary tricks.
The “sidecar reconciliation” is one such trick which, unfortunately for them, seems to have a show stopping Catch-22:
“Neither the House nor the Senate have figured out how to pass a reconciliation sidecar first,” one senior Senate aide says. “We are being asked to pass a piece of legislation that amends another piece of legislation which does not exist yet. We are having problems with the CBO and parliamentarian on that front.”
Got that? The House (Democrats) doesn’t trust the Senate (Democrats) to fix the Senate bill they are currently being pressured to pass. Therefore the House wants the fix passed first so the Senate can’t renege on it. But, you can’t pass a fix on something that doesn’t yet exist. So here they sit, in a parliamentary stew of their own making and with presidential leadership simply not present – except for speechifying and berating everyone else but himself for the failure of his leadership.
It’s an amazing performance.
I’m going to use Taegan Goddard’s reaction at CQ Politics as a basis for mine and to show how two people can watch the same thing and react like they hadn’t:
President Obama spent more than an hour making arguments he should have been making for months. He forcefully reminded Americans that he was not responsible for the big problems he inherited. He desperately needed to remind people the historical context and he did it successfully.
Did he really? He’s been saying this stuff for a year now and I’m pretty sure the world is aware of his opinion on the subject. Whether or not he again “successfully” placed it in a “historical context” is a matter of opinion, but what isn’t a matter of opinion is he’s had a year to work on jobs and the economy and he’s screwed around with health care instead.
Interestingly, it was like a campaign speech designed to appeal to independents. Obama refused to be pulled into the traditional left vs. right polarization that plagues Washington, D.C. It’s what got him elected in the first place.
He was right in the middle of the “traditional left vs. right polarization”. He was lecturing Republicans during most of the speech. And he even got into the populist side of things with his attacks on banks and corporations. Hell, he even went after the Supreme Court and threw a shot across the bow of the Joint Chiefs.
There were also several political moments you might see again in this fall’s midterm campaigns. The video of Republicans sitting on their hands while Obama called for banks to pay back bailout funds will almost certainly come back to haunt them.
This is the inside the beltway mentality speaking. That particular video will mean zip to those who see it. Jobs, economic turnaround, prosperity – attacking banks isn’t going to bring any of those.
While everyone knew the president would focus on jobs and the economy, it was nonetheless shocking it took him nearly 40 minutes to get to health care reform. Just weeks ago, it was the most important issue on his agenda. Obama made his case once again but it’s far from clear whether Democrats are scared enough or feel the urgency to ignore the confused politics of the issue and pass the bill.
For the 30th time in a year he talked about health care. What part of “we don’t want what you’re selling” do you suppose he doesn’t get? It isn’t that they aren’t conveying the message properly – it’s the message itself that’s being rejected along with a procedure that includes such absurdities as “sidecar reconciliation”, bribes and closed door meetings. Get a freaking clue.
It was a decent speech, but not a great one.
In fact it was an outstanding speech as far as speeches go, but what does it mean. This is a president who has given more outstanding speeches than any since Reagan. The difference is, things happened after Reagan spoke. Nothing happens after Obama speaks. So while the rhetoric was defiant, pointed, and lofty, it was all “just words”.
President’s get kudos for words. They are remembered for deeds. And thus far, Obama is very light in the deed department.