Lots of smart political observers have been working hard in recent days to explain the odd phenomenon of centrist beltway types (Fournier, Ignatius, WaPo editorial staff) blaming Obama for not being able to induce Republicans to accept the kind of compromise or "balanced approach" to replacing the sequester that Obama has articulated ad infinitum and that the pundits in question themselves seek. That approach seeks a roughly equal mix of revenue increases (via tax loophole reduction) and spending cuts to replace the $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending mandated by the sequester. Should such a balance be struck, spending cuts would still outnumber revenue hikes by about 2-to-1 in the sum of deficit reduction measures taken since 2011, not counting interest savings.
James Fallows calls the both-sides-are-to-blame schtick false equivalence. Brendan Nyhan decries Green Lantern theory, the apparently ineradicable belief that the president can bend Congress to his will by force of rhetoric or personality or some more nebulous magical power. Brian Beutler detects an Obama derangement syndrome -- a profound disappointment in Obama stemming from his apparent lack of power to stop the train wreck. Beutler does an excellent job demonstrating that David Ignatius in particular lambastes Obama for not making precisely the public argument in favor of a mix of tax hikes and spending cuts -- including cuts to Medicare and Social Security -- that Obama has been making nonstop for two years.
Fallows and others attribute this phenomenon to a rooted belief among establishment Beltway types that if compromise fails, both sides must be at fault. Beutler and Nyhan allude to misplaced faith -- disproved by political science research -- that the president can win a political fight by force of argument. Also, more generally, that presidential power should be able to overcome, because the president is...Father of us all?
I suspect that at least some of those who call on Obama to compromise more, or articulate better, or propose larger, "braver" entitlement cuts may be displacing anger over a disappointment in Obama that is more grounded in reality. Or perhaps I'm just speaking for myself here. Because I am angry at Obama.
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