I was traveling most of yesterday, experiencing a story which would warm the cockles of Bruce’s heart, being three hours delayed out of LAX and just missing a connection in Philadelphia, so I also missed all the hullabaloo over the president’s budget speech.
But, what has struck me in reading about it is that instead of making the case for his do-over budget, he had to set it up as an us vs. them scenario, demonizing Republican solutions. He seems he would have done better to make the case for his plan and then said something like, “I know the Republicans have put forward a different plan. Yes, we see things differently, but I’m optimistic that we can work together and resolve our differences.”
As law professor William A. Jacobson puts it:
This was a moment when Obama could have proven that he was the uniter he claimed to be not a divider, when he could have set forth an alternative plan without demeaning Republicans. No one could have expected Obama to stand there and say that he would agree to the Ryan plan, but no one should have expected a full frontal assault on the motives and humanity of those with whom he has policy disagreements. If Obama had signaled a readiness to reach across the aisle, to seek common ground without guaranteeing an outcome, he would have been presidential. Instead, there were just a few throw away lines about compromise at the end of a long screed.
The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal were no less harsh:
Did someone move the 2012 election to June 1? We ask because President Obama’s extraordinary response to Paul Ryan’s budget yesterday—with its blistering partisanship and multiple distortions—was the kind Presidents usually outsource to some junior lieutenant. Mr. Obama’s fundamentally political document would have been unusual even for a Vice President in the fervor of a campaign.
Mr. Obama did not deign to propose an alternative to rival Mr. Ryan’s plan, even as he categorically rejected all its reform ideas, repeatedly vilifying them as essentially un-American. “Their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America,” he said, supposedly pitting “children with autism or Down’s syndrome” against “every millionaire and billionaire in our society.” The President was not attempting to join the debate Mr. Ryan has started, but to close it off just as it begins and banish House GOP ideas to political Siberia.
“I rarely heard a speech by a president so shallow, so hyper-partisan and so intellectually dishonest, outside the last couple of weeks of a presidential election where you are allowed to call your opponent anything short of a traitor. But, we’re a year-and-a-half away from Election Day and it was supposed to be a speech about policy. He didn’t even get to his own alternative until more than halfway through the speech. And when he did, he threw out numbers suspended in mid-air with nothing under them with all kinds of goals and guidelines and triggers that mean nothing. The speech was really about and entirely an attack on the [Rep. Paul] Ryan plan.”