An Historic Failure Of Presidential Leadership

White House Dossier Blog

I can hardly find the words to describe what happened at the White House today. But there are always words, and so I must find them.

In an immense and nearly unparalleled — there’s always James Buchanan — abnegation of presidential responsibility, the White House today blithely acknowledged that President Obama did nothing to broker a deal in Congress to reduce the deficit and save the American economy, and it suggested it wasn’t Obama’s responsibility to do so in the future.

The deficit reduction committee represented the best chance to achieve a deficit deal, because the next opportunity will not come before February or so, when we’re in full election mode, and because any agreement reached by the panel would have had special rules attached that would have eased its passage in Congress.

But Obama, it must be clear as the Caribbean to all, is now solely interested in gaining a cudgel with which to whack Republicans next year instead of saving the union. He would rather the panel fail so that he can blame Republicans for something about the dismal economy over which he unhappily presides.

Asked today what Obama had done to spur the committee on, White House press Secretary Jay Carney said he had done a lot. LAST SUMMER.

The President of the United States, as you noted, throughout the summer was engaged directly and personally in extensive negotiations with Congress, with the Speaker of the House, on what would have been a broad and balanced and substantial proposal to reduce our deficit and debts over the long term.

The President, at the beginning of the process, at the beginning of the super committee process, a committee established by an act of Congress, put forward a comprehensive proposal that went well beyond the $1.2 trillion mandated by that act and was a balanced approach to deficit reduction and getting our long-term debt under control. That has been available to the committee since it first started meeting, and is available today, with the waning hours left to it to act, as a road map to how you achieve the kind of balanced approach that Americans demand.

He gave them a road map? Like, a deficit reduction GPS to play with?

Carney continued:

This committee was established by an act of Congress. It was comprised of members of Congress. Instead of pointing fingers and playing the blame game, Congress should act, fulfill its responsibility.

The nation’s future is solely Congress’s responsibility? The president’s responsibility is . . . golf and campaigning?


Now, let me just say that Congress still has it within its capacity to be responsible and act. As you noted, the sequester doesn’t take effect for a year. Congress could still act and has plenty of time to act. And we call on Congress to fulfill its responsibility.

We call on Congress to fulfill its responsibility? Like a mother saying, “I call on my baby to learn to walk.”

Congress will not act, because it will be 2012, and it knows full well the president isn’t serious.

Not only the economy, Carney said, but the health of the military is the responsibility of Congress.

We made no — we made clear that the cuts in the sequester are not the best approach to achieving the kind of deficit reduction that we need, and that the defense cuts are much deeper than we think are wise, as Secretary Panetta and the President and others have made clear — which is why Congress needs to fulfill its responsibility.

And so, on to the real business at hand, bashing Republicans.

In the end, it comes down to a decision by Republicans that they are unwilling to do what the American people say they believe should be done, which is ask the very wealthiest Americans, millionaires and billionaires, to pay a little bit extra so that we can achieve the kind of deficit reduction and long-term debt control that we need. Short of that willingness, it’s hard to see how we get to an answer.

In his remarks this evening, Obama said tepidly that he would be “ready and willing to work with anybody that’s ready to engage in that effort to create a balanced plan for deficit reduction.”

What he’s saying, really, is that Republicans must first cave, and then he’ll work with them. Because otherwise, he would have done so already.

Which means the fragile economy will have to wait a year for Washington to work out an agreement on the deficit, during which time an economic collapse could come at any time.

The president of the United States has decided not fulfill his oath to “preserve, protect and defend” the nation.

Well, he promised change.

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