It seems the president set the tone for the second half of his first term, his first experience as chief executive with a Republican House (but Democratic talking points notwithstanding, not a “Republican Congress” as his party still controls the Senate) on April 13 when he delivered a speech at George Washington University on the budget.
Supposedly he was going to unveil a new budget plan (he still hasn’t). The president invited House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan whose budget had won a lot of acclaim in conservative circles (and even some praise in liberal ones), but had largely been lambasted on the left.* Instead of releasing his own plan, he spent the better part of his time attacking Republicans.
The House would pass Ryan’s budget two days later. The Democratic Senate hasn’t passed a budget in 913 days.
In his speech, the president would fault policies of the his predecessor for creating the federal spending problem, telling his audience that “we lost our way in the decade that followed” the 1990s. But, after crediting Republicans for presenting and championing one vision, he went on to excoriate the plan:
But the way this plan achieves those goals would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we’ve known certainly in my lifetime. In fact, I think it would be fundamentally different than what we’ve known throughout our history.
I believe it paints a vision of our future that is deeply pessimistic. It’s a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can’t afford to fix them. . . .
It’s a vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made to care for our seniors. . . .
This vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America.
Even the Washington Post reported that the budget speech had a “partisan tone.” Finding that the president “spent much of the afternoon speech at George Washington University criticizing [Ryan’s] deficit-reduction plan, called ‘Path to Prosperity,'” the analysts at the Annenberg Center found that the Democrat’s “critique strayed at times from the facts.”
Seems the imperative was not telling the truth, but instead savaging the opposition. On his various job tours in swing states, the president has attacked Republicans, mixed his partisan rhetoric with backward-looking class-warfare rhetoric (last link via Instapundit).
Which brings me to the title question: Can the president make the case of his economic policies without demonizing the opposition and raising the specter of class warfare?
*Interesting that although the White House had invited this distinguished gentleman, the president did not mention him by name in the speech.