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Posted at 1:33 PM ET, 02/15/2011

Why have a press conference like THAT?

By Jennifer Rubin

President Obama had a hard day yesterday. Conservatives, the press and even some Democrats hammered him for an unserious budget. So you can imagine the wheels turning in the Obama brain trust: Have a press conference and recover the narrative!

The problem is you then have to say something to dispel the negative storyline (i.e. the president doesn't understand and doesn't care about real fiscal repair). He tells us the Debt Commission is a "framework for discussion." What is that supposed to mean? (Answer: I'm not leading on entitlements.) He tells us that "symbolic cuts" would do great damage to the economy. What?! I suppose if they aren't really symbolic, they might have some impact, but didn't we pretty much dispel the notion that heaps of government spending creates prosperity or jobs? (Answer: Obama is still sipping Kool Aid from the Keynesian punch bowl.) He says we aren't going to be "running up the credit card" but his own budget adds $7.2 trillion to the debt over 10 years. He says he wants to tackle tax reform, but his only suggestion on taxes in the budget was a $1.5 trillion tax hike.

It was an unconvincing and uninspired performance because he has a message that isn't defensible. You see, he really isn't serious about real fiscal discipline.

Judging from the initial press reports he didn't do himself any good. The New York Times observed:

"You guys are pretty impatient. If something doesn't happen today, then the assumption is that it's not going to happen," Mr. Obama said. "This is not a matter of 'you go first' or 'I go first.' This is a matter of everybody having a serious conversation about where we want to go and then ultimately everybody getting into that boat at the same time so it doesn't tip over."

Yet Mr. Obama offered few specifics about how and when serious negotiations might begin over entitlement programs.

One more note: His most egregious departure from reality came not on the budget, but on Egypt. He proclaimed: "History will end up recording that at every juncture in the situation in Egypt that we were on the right side of history." This is preposterous to anyone but the most determined Obama sycophant. He did virtually nothing to push Hosni Mubarak toward reform for two years, and once the protests began the White House became a muddle of multiple voices, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggesting at points that Mubarak wasn't and shouldn't go anywhere. The administration never publicly called for Mubarak's departure. In short, the Obama team followed and did not lead; its support for regime change was in doubt throughout the process. Unfortunately, Obama wasn't asked if he had been on the right side of history in June 2009 when he largely ignored the Green Movement's uprising.

Obama and his advisers seem to have convinced themselves that most problems are a matter of "messaging" or "communication." But when Obama communicates a flawed message or misrepresents facts, he compounds his own difficulties, making it that much more difficult for his allies to defend him and all the more easy for opponents to demonstrate that he's not leading on the crucial issues of the day.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 15, 2011; 1:33 PM ET
Categories:  Obama White House  
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Next: Two facts on the budget

Comments

he's just positioning himself to attack the Republicans when they try to make real cuts. He gave the strategy away when he mentioned not cutting a program that provides baby formula for poor infants. Just a few of these type charges echoed endlessly by the Democrat media will portray the Republicans as heartless.

Obama thinks the public wants spending cuts in the abstract but not actual specific cuts. In a few years there will be no other choice than drastic cuts, but Obama plans to be safely re-elected by then. A cynical, short-sighted strategy to be sure, but it may work.

Posted by: eoniii | February 15, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of being wrong on Egypt, check out the revelation that occurred on MSNBC:

http://newsbusters.org/blogs/matt-hadro/2011/02/14/harvard-professor-slams-obamas-handling-egypt-morning-joe-panel-dumbfoun

Posted by: nvjma | February 15, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Obama thinks the public wants spending cuts in the abstract but not actual specific cuts. In a few years there will be no other choice than drastic cuts, but Obama plans to be safely re-elected by then. A cynical, short-sighted strategy to be sure, but it may work.
Posted by: eoniii

Yes,Obama has no vision,everything is about re-election. If he becomes a lame duck,the "REAL" Obama might appear,if there is one.

Posted by: rcaruth | February 15, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Great post

Posted by: lewisdapa | February 15, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

"You see, he really isn't serious about real fiscal discipline."

And $100 Billion in cuts with a 2 Trillion $ deficit is serious?

Posted by: rcaruth | February 15, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Actually, the public does only want abstract spending cuts. The only cut that a majority of republicans support is cutting foreign aid, a claim that Michael Gerson finds heartless and shortsighted (see today's Post).

The most recent Pew survey identified a plurality of voters want increased spending on education and veteran's benefits. http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1889/poll-federal-spending-programs-budget-cuts-raise-taxes-state-budgets .

Oh, and of course the public also doesn't want taxes to go up. Yes, people want as much as they are led to believe they are entitled to and don't want to pay for it. This cuts across party and ideological lines and cannot be sustainable. But when members of neither party can have an adult conversation about the issues and how to tackle them, we're going to have problems. Without a combination of increased revenue (yes, reformed and higher taxes) coupled with spending and entitlement reduction/reform there isn't much hope for the future. And before anyone tries to tell me that taxes are too high, let me pose a question: when have taxes ever been this low in your lifetime?

Posted by: dbrue | February 15, 2011 2:56 PM | Report abuse

The president's political opponents have been using DISinformation against him ever since he came into office. And that kind of messaging has worked with some of the electorate. They, those particular electorate, apparently would rather hate and vilify the president, and let the Republicans take away their much-needed social safety nets.

Why? It seems that for those electorate, the hatred feels so good, so very gooood. I live in the part of the country where I often hear such hate spewing from the mouths of those who have been taught to hate.

Your article, IMO, oversimplifies our dreadful economic situation and the inherited problems besieging this administration.

Posted by: janna2 | February 15, 2011 3:16 PM | Report abuse

2008 Democratic primary debate;

Obama: "For a long time the Republicans were the party of ideas"

Hillary: "Yeah, the party of BAD ideas"

Cut taxes big on the wealthy 1981 and 2001 and prosperity Trickles Down? Failed.

Deregulate banks, health insurers and oil drillers because it's better for business and they will police themselves? Failed.

Duh. Abe Lincoln would have said;
"You can fool some of the people, ALL of the time"... ;^)

- Balkingpoints / www

Posted by: RField7 | February 15, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse

People like Rubin have the hardest time when things are going well for the Obama administration. A regime change that conservatives claim to have wanted has just taken place in Egypt without any intervention on our part, despite the howling of the neo-con pundits during the last few weeks that we weren't doing enough (but what it was that we should have been doing they never cared to tell us). Now we start the long dance of budget negotiations - a process in which the Republican contribution has so far been comically pathetic - and the best Rubin can do is quote from the New York times and complain because Obama hopes to (finally!) end the Bush tax breaks for the wealthy but leave the middle class breaks intact. Well, that's what we elected him to do!

Posted by: gposner | February 15, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse

The press conference was a disgrace. Now,when is the loyal opposition going to have their press conference to rebut the drivel that came out of O's mouth today. I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by: rcaruth | February 15, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse

There will be no second term. I have never seen a president enter office on such a huge wave of public optimism and support and then alienate the vast majority of those people.
Does he not realize that news is instantaneous in this day and age? We do know what he said about Egypt and what Hillary said. Mubarak's a great friend! Ha.
Medicare needs to be fixed! The Greatest Generation is gettign the greatest share and how are we going to support the Baby Boomers when they retire? Or how about the lost generations? There will be no retirement unless it's at their children's homes or the poor house, when they can no longer work. Thank you student loans.
No more bail outs! No more foreign aid or at least cut it by a significant percentage. Same with eductaion; we do not need more money, we need new curriculums. When was the national educational curriculum last examined? That's what puts us behind the rest of the world; not teacher salaries!!!
It's time to stop the bullshit and double talk that we've been plagued with for decades and it's time to ACT.

Posted by: hebe1 | February 15, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

rcaruth wrote:

"And $100 Billion in cuts with a 2 Trillion $ deficit is serious?"

- - - - - - - -

I'd like the GOP to cut much deeper, but for now we can definitely say that the GOP is more serious about deficit reduction than Obama. Obama should have taken the GOP cuts and added his own to them. Instead he came in with a budget proposal that was less niggardly than the GOP's.

The simple fact is that some spending cuts can only be made by Democrats. Republicans cannot cut Social Security or Medicare. If they try, the Democrats will instantly go to their second-favorite play in the playbook: "The Republicans want Grandma to be thrown out in the cold and beaten with her walker." Just as only Nixon could go to China, only Obama can propose cuts to entitlements. If he does, the GOP will get on board. But there's no way that the Republicans should stick their hand out if it's just going to get chopped off by liberal partisans.

Posted by: Swat02 | February 15, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Swat02

Rand Paul is standing up for $500 Billion in cuts.

Posted by: rcaruth | February 15, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

This post is ridiculous. I nearly choked on this part:

Obama is still sipping Kool Aid from the Keynesian punch bowl.

In fact, there are NO economists I have heard of that deny Keynesian theories. In fact, it is recourse to these theories that Republican's use to justify lowering tax rates to stimulate the economy. Increasing spending or lowering revenue has the same overall effect, it increases the deficits which stimulates the economy.

Rubin is simply ignorant on economic matters and takes herself out of the discussion by that ignorance.

Posted by: reussere | February 15, 2011 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I listened to the press conference today and thought he did just fine. And I agree with him on Egypt - it is our place to offer support for democracy, not fight other people's battles for them.

Posted by: mikem1 | February 15, 2011 4:06 PM | Report abuse

"Rand Paul is standing up for $500 Billion in cuts."

So if Ron Paul can do it, why can't Barack Obama?

Posted by: Swat02 | February 15, 2011 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Also, I still find it amusing how Jennifer tells us that Obama "isn't really serious" about deficit reduction.

Jennifer, I've been serious about deficit reduction since the Clinton days. However, as soon as Bill left office and the Republicans took over, nobody seemed to care about deficits anymore. We got massive tax cuts with no reduction in spending. Dick Cheney said "deficits don't matter", and with two off-the-books wars and the huge expansion of medicare, it was easy to believe that he was telling the truth (at least as he saw it).

But now...now you're "serious". Oh. Sure.

Posted by: mikem1 | February 15, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Total lack of leadership, manhood and courage. What a cowardly individual.

Posted by: richard36 | February 15, 2011 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Still waiting for the Republicans to make a serious proposal about cutting the deficit. So far the only actual proposal that they have advanced--saving the Bush-era tax cuts--has increased the deficit. Other than cutting earmarks, when are the Republicans going to get serious about anything?

Posted by: OC1Kenobi | February 15, 2011 4:29 PM | Report abuse

It is a harder day on any occasion I subject myself to another Jennifer Rubin column. On a level with poking myself in the eye with a stick.

Posted by: jimsteinberg1 | February 15, 2011 4:36 PM | Report abuse

It seems that both sides need political cover to make hard choices. Thus, I think the President's strategy is to sit with the republicans and have that "adult conversation" he talked about today. I guess we will see what comes from that.

Posted by: mikem1 | February 15, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Right Wing extremist and recent junior college graduate Jenny Rubin says 'FOX NEWS FOX NEWS FOX NEWS'

What does she mean?

Who knows. Who cares.

Posted by: ExConservative | February 15, 2011 4:45 PM | Report abuse

"And before anyone tries to tell me that taxes are too high, let me pose a question: when have taxes ever been this low in your lifetime?"

dbrue, That's irrelevant. Just because taxes might be at a certain *relatively* low level at a particular point in time, it doesn't mean that they are not too high.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 15, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Rubin, your oversimplification of the issues is appalling. You give the Republicans a free ride when they avoid presenting a serious budget proposal that gets to entitlements, which are the meat and potatoes of our deficit issues. They simply dig into programs that help the needy while protecting their great friends, the ultra-rich.

As for Egypt, give me a break! The days when the US could simply impose its will anywhere in the world are long gone. Obama could not push Mubarak out of power and many of the Egyptian revolutionary leaders have stated publicly that they did not want US intervention. As for Republicans on this issue, how come you are not taking some of their leadership to task for comments regarding our failure to support "our great friend and ally" Hosni Mubarak? You talk about double standards!

Posted by: Givemeabreak10 | February 15, 2011 5:03 PM | Report abuse

rcaruth wrote:

"And $100 Billion in cuts with a 2 Trillion $ deficit is serious?"

The GOP is proposing $100 billion in cuts THIS BUDGET YEAR. Obama has not offered any cuts to the current fiscal year budget. The budget he is defending is for FY 2012, and the GOP budget for 2012 has not been introduced yet.

Posted by: jpfred | February 15, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Re Obama's "egregious departure from reality" and his "drinking Keynesian Kool Aid"

Using such "clever" phrases makes it hard to take Ms. Rubin too seriously. Economists Krugman and Stieglitz say that Keynes is correct, and in an economic climate like ours, we need a large infusion of government spending.

Posted by: Sion1 | February 15, 2011 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Maybe it's an attempt to test the waters first, ... just to see how big 'Jaws" is.
Yup. We're gonna' need a bigger boat....
As far as opening the discussion goes .... that seems to have worked. Decades in the making, what? ... Now there has to be an instant fix?! Sleep on it....

Posted by: deepthroat21 | February 15, 2011 6:07 PM | Report abuse

J. RUBIN'S surname threw me; I thought I was going to be reading something serious and sensible, not claptrap. My bad!

Posted by: janna2 | February 15, 2011 6:42 PM | Report abuse

In fact, there are NO economists I have heard of that deny Keynesian theories. In fact, it is recourse to these theories that Republican's use to justify lowering tax rates to stimulate the economy. Increasing spending or lowering revenue has the same overall effect, it increases the deficits which stimulates the economy.

Rubin is simply ignorant on economic matters and takes herself out of the discussion by that ignorance.

Posted by: reussere

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The economic ignorance is this poster's failing to cite that Keynes was against incurring a deficit without a path to paying it back down. In other words, he never advocated the building of structural deficits. So your assertion that "In fact, there are NO economists I have heard of that deny Keynesian theories" is a meaningless half-truth in this context. So it would appear that your last sentence applies more to you.

Posted by: alexandria6351 | February 15, 2011 7:18 PM | Report abuse

reussere said:
"There are NO economists I have heard of that deny Keynesian theories. In fact, it is recourse to these theories that Republican's use to justify lowering tax rates to stimulate the economy. Increasing spending or lowering revenue has the same overall effect, it increases the deficits which stimulates the economy."

This is nonsense on stilts and betrays reussere's own utter lack of understanding of economics. Keynesian theory is built around claims of a multiplier effect greater than 1.00 that supposedly occurs when government demand for goods and services exceeds the revenue collected to pay for those goods and services.

There are many problems with this idea and in fact many economists DON'T accept it. Here are two of the principal objections:
1) The government deficit spending (mostly on entitlements) has to be paid for by borrowing that must come from investors who would otherwise invest in more economically productive ways. Thus, the supposed multiplier effect is actually less than 1.00. We do net damage as the spending increases.

2) Starving the government (particularly when it is engaged in unsustainable entitlement spending) is always a good idea since lower taxation, if properly done, stimulates investors and producers to go out and do more investment and production (make a bigger pie). There is a significant difference between deficits created by less taxation versus ones created by even more bloated spending.

Anyone who has been paying attention at all for the past 50 years already knows all this.
Why doesn't reussere?

Posted by: TYoke | February 15, 2011 7:21 PM | Report abuse

1) The government deficit spending (mostly on entitlements) has to be paid for by borrowing that must come from investors who would otherwise invest in more economically productive ways

??

I'm not an economist, but this seems questionable. There's nothing to suggest that other investments are more "economically productive".

It's more likely that the money spent on entitlements is spent versus saved, thus putting the money directly back into the economy.

Posted by: mikem1 | February 15, 2011 7:57 PM | Report abuse

He's being purposely obtuse ... the goal of course being to rope a dope along and hope he gets re-elected ... not a great paln to get you on Rushmore but at least Paul Krugman will be happy ...

Posted by: cunn9305 | February 15, 2011 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer:

Obama will make a press conference like that because he is a worthless twerp. He is deserving of the adulation of commenters like janna2 and reussere.

How should the Republicans proceed against this placeholder? With a $4 trillion budget cut proposal right out of the gate, or one of only $100 billion next year, in perpetuity, and more to come in future years, ultimately including restructuring the great triad of entitlements?

Were I to have the power to do this on my own, about half the government (Dept. of YouNameIt) would disappear today. But I don't and so I'll support a group that takes away the unconstitutional aggrandizement of groups like EPA and its carbon schemes, and FCC and its internet dreams, and so on.

There is a political game to be played out here, in America, where the field is split about 35% Dem, 35% Rep and 30% gutless unprincipled "independents" who have to be coaxed to any kind of decision. I just hope the Rs are up to the game. They cannot blink, or "just get along" or deviate. If they fail, America is lost as a great nation - the "city on a hill" plundered and destroyed.

Posted by: jafco | February 15, 2011 10:56 PM | Report abuse

@mikem1 | February 15, 2011 7:57 PM

"...It's more likely that the money spent on entitlements is spent versus saved, thus putting the money directly back into the economy...."

Please, remember what Mark Twain said about opening your mouth. A dollar spent perhaps buys some cheap gewgaw made in China. A dollar saved may add $10 to the borrowing power of the nation. Which do you think has more beneficial economic effect?

Posted by: jafco | February 15, 2011 11:04 PM | Report abuse

Great posting. However, the Washington Post is not going to let you say stuff like this for very long.

But it is nice to hear an original view while it lasts!

Posted by: Delongl | February 15, 2011 11:41 PM | Report abuse

O is so post-modern (the narrative handles everything) and if he doesn't single-handedly end that philosophy's influence, I don't know what will. I have my fingers crossed.

Posted by: admirer | February 16, 2011 12:11 AM | Report abuse

Obama's failure to lead isn't just embarrassing -- it's dangerous. We need a serious man for serious times. But we have an amateur instead.

Posted by: diesel_skins_ | February 16, 2011 6:15 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Obama?

"Present!"

Posted by: drjohn3 | February 16, 2011 7:23 AM | Report abuse

Every time BHO comes out with a new "message" to try to sell his untenable polices, I'm reminded of Milo the mess officer in Catch-22.

Milo spends the entire mess budget on cotton, hoping to sell the cotton later at a profit, buy food for the mess and pocket the difference with the men none the wiser.

Unfortunately, the cotton market tanks and Milo is left with tons of cotton and no food for the men. Ever the optimist, he becomes convinced that the men will eat the cotton if only he cooks and serves it the right way.

The men keep telling him "Milo, people can't digest cotton!", but he just comes back the next day with poached cotton, deep-fried cotton, etc.

Posted by: naifmabat | February 16, 2011 2:45 PM | Report abuse

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