Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pulping the bully approach to presidential leadership IV

Here is the best evidence yet that Obama's low-profile approach to beginning the long process of budget/tax reform is on target.  Never mind Republicans' alleged glee at his refusal to roll out a grand plan -- they are begging him, Jake Sherman reports, to expose himself:

House Republicans were giddy when President Barack Obama took a pass on entitlement reform in his 2012 budget, ripping him for punting on the future of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

But when they’re pressed for answers about what needs to happen on entitlements, Republicans are punting right back, saying the president needs to take the lead and come up with his own ideas

Before stating their own policy prescriptions, no fewer than a dozen GOP lawmakers and aides Wednesday said that it is Obama’s responsibility to put forth ideas on entitlement reform.

“We need his leadership,” Ways and Means Republican Rep. Wally Herger (Calif.) said. “If it’s something this big to get through, it’s very important for the president to lead.”

Rep. Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican who sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said that the “president looks very small if he doesn’t lead on this issue.” Rep. Patrick Tiberi, an Ohio Republican cozy with Speaker John Boehner, said “you can’t have a big issue that impacts Americans without presidential leadership.” And Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.), the president of the anti-Obama freshman class, said “quite honestly, he has a responsibility to America” to put forth his ideas and lead.
Mr. President, Republicans have a playbook for you: Over the Cliff, by Hugo First.

Meanwhile, back in the Senate, the WSJ's Jonathan Weisman reports, negotiations continue apace among a new gang of six toward a plan with at least some resemblance to Bowles-Simpson (including, apparently, a lot of magic asterisks). Weisman notes pointedly that two of the six, Dick Durbin and Tom Coburn, are "personally close to President Obama."  Nonetheless, despite further GOP blandishments, the admin is hanging back:

Republican aides said Wednesday that for the Senate effort to win GOP support in the House, President Obama would have to publicly embrace it.

But aides involved in the negotiations said it is not clear how firmly the administration will back the effort. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is encouraging the talks, as is Bruce Reed, Vice President Joe Biden's chief of staff. But the White House has stayed away from any formal role.
Weisman ends with one more scrap of evidence that Obama's strategy is on target -- it's drawing fire from the GOP's new star blusterer and self-appointed presidential alter ego:

Before details of the Senate plan emerged, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie accused both the White House and Republicans in Congress of irresponsibility for failing to propose fixes for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

"What game is being played here is irresponsible and it's dangerous," he told a packed house at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "We are on the path to ruin."
What Christie's on is a path to is national prominence, swinging his budgetary meat ax and staging take-downs of unwary amateurs. We'll see how that shtick plays over time.

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