John Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, said that the president’s proposed budget freeze was like going on a diet after winning a pie eating contest.
Technically, it’s more like starting a diet in the middle of pie eating contest -- the president wants to finish the spending increases he’s proposed before he starts capping -- but you get the idea.
Administration officials admit to writer Jackie Calmes that the spending freeze is modest in scope, applying to one-eighth of the budget and realizing, if fully implemented by Congress over the next decade, a 3 percent reduction in the $ 9 trillion projected growth of the national debt.
But the Obama team says that the mostly symbolic move will give the president a stronger argument for eventually tackling the biggest, fastest-growing parts of the budget: entitlements like Medicare and Social Security. One also assumes that the logic applies to tax increases too.
It’s unlikely that Congress will go along with a budget that deprives their pet projects in the name of symbolic victory for Obama, especially since it is a net freeze, not an across-the-board one. Obama will propose cuts for some agencies and increases for others he favors.
“Because Mr. Obama plans to exempt military spending while leaving many popular domestic programs vulnerable, his move is certain to further anger liberals in his party and senior Democrats in Congress, who are already upset by the possible collapse of health care legislation and the troop buildup in Afghanistan, among other things.”
Liberal Democrats can feel it coming: The big sell out. They denied Hillary Clinton a presidential nomination in large part because her husband triangulated his way into a second term after Republicans stormed Washington in 1994. Now, President Obama seems to be going all wobbly on them after one guy in a pickup truck gets elected to the Senate.
The president seeks desperately for a way to add a bipartisan patina to his agenda and Democrats in Congress keep getting more bad news about members retiring or polls showing Republican challengers charging ahead. The need for Democrats to win back the support of fed-up independents after a year of excesses makes a move to the right almost inevitable.
The president is talking about a more modest health bill and imperiled members of Congress are thinking about quietly backing away from the issue altogether like they were leaving a room with a sleeping puma that had already mauled them once.
But the Times’ editorial board has another idea: double down!
The Times willfully misreads polls, glosses over what it acknowledges would be serious damage to Democratic prospects this fall and suggests that the House should pass the Senate bill and that Obama should stake his entire presidency on that suicide mission.
Arguing that a piece of legislation is worth losing a majority over is one thing, but arguing that the best political way forward for a party is continuing to do what voters detest – and to do so through a parliamentary trick -- is either crazy or willfully misleading.
“Rank-and-file House Democrats apparently won’t accept the Senate bill without modification. So Congressional leaders are looking for ways to commit both the House and the Senate to changes — such as better subsidies to make insurance more affordable — that could be approved through parallel ‘budget reconciliation’ legislation that could be approved by a simple majority in both the Senate and House.”
Writer Peter Wallsten has a great look at the target of so much liberal wrath for the Obama administration: Rahm Emanuel.
All administrations have members who can deflect criticism from their presidents – fall guys for an outraged base.
But sooner or later, the sin eater becomes too toxic to stick around. Rahm-bo may have reached that point.
“The friction was laid bare in August when Mr. Emanuel showed up at a weekly strategy session featuring liberal groups and White House aides. Some attendees said they were planning to air ads attacking conservative Democrats who were balking at Mr. Obama's health-care overhaul.
‘F—ing retarded,’ Mr. Emanuel scolded the group, according to several participants. He warned them not to alienate lawmakers whose votes would be needed on health care and other top legislative items.”
After weeks of heated speculation that Ben Bernanke’s nomination as Fed chairman was in peril, we see news organizations climbing down today.
There’s no ready alternative to Bernanke and defeating his nomination would send markets into a tailspin precisely as worries mount about a double-dip recession are mounting.
Remember – Washington populism is fake populism.
Writers Neil Irwin and Michael Fletcher explain:
“On Monday, Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said they would vote to confirm Bernanke for a second term. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he would vote against confirmation. Senate leaders plan the vote for this week, though it had not been scheduled as of Monday afternoon. Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters that Bernanke pledged ‘transparency and accountability’ around Fed decisions in the American International Group bailout.”
Writer Eric Schmitt finally got his hands from the diplomatic cables from Ambassador Karl Eikenberry that so roiled the White House colloquia on Afghanistan last fall.
Now we see why. The attack on the Obama surge was withering and targeted the deepest areas of public concern.
Schmitt has all the memos posted for reading, which is really worth doing.
“They show that Mr. Eikenberry, a retired Army lieutenant general who once was the top American commander in Afghanistan, repeatedly cautioned that deploying sizable American reinforcements would result in ‘astronomical costs’ — tens of billions of dollars — and would only deepen the dependence of the Afghan government on the United States.
‘Sending additional forces will delay the day when Afghans will take over, and make it difficult, if not impossible, to bring our people home on a reasonable timetable,’ he wrote Nov. 6. ‘An increased U.S. and foreign role in security and governance will increase Afghan dependence, at least in the short-term.’”
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