Friday, March 4, 2011

Does Obama Have A Secret Plan?

There were several items in the Times today which, when put together, seemed to say a lot about the current state of our political and economic situation. I think there can be little dispute that the economy is the most import issue that we face. While there was some good economic news today the recovery, such as it is, is fragile. Paul Krugman's column today focused on the Republicans' seemingly relentless determination to destroy it. Krugman observed that the cuts proposed by Republicans seem to be calibrated to do the most possible damage to the economy in the short term and to the nations future in the long term.

So what are the Democrats planning to do? According to another piece in the Times today they are planning to offer more cuts. Again we see "negotiations" Democrat style. They offer $4 billion in cuts last week, the Republicans continue to insist on their $61 billion. So this week the Democrats offer $6.5 billion, including, according to the Times, economic development funding, because who needs that. And what will the Republicans offer in return. I'll go out on a limb and say they will still want $61 billion in cuts. Now I realize that the Republicans are not likely to get the full amount they want, but as long as the Democrats keep negotiating with themselves they will get more than they otherwise would.

This brings us to the last piece in the Times that caught my eye today, one titled "Less Drama in White House After Staff Changes." Its about the changes in the White House since RahmAxelrod are out and William Daley and David Plouffe are in. There was a bunch of stuff about atmospherics and how people are happier now that Rahm is not yelling at them all the time. But here is the stuff that caught my eye:

White House officials say the goal is to achieve a long-term victory — by bagging a budget deal, or the credit for trying — not to win each day’s news cycle. On two successive weekends, for example, the White House passed up chances to score points against the House Republicans.
Note that the goal is not a good deal, its not to stop Republicans from destroying the economy or hurting the needy, its about getting a deal or at least credit. In other words, its about getting the President reelected. The problem with this strategy is that if the Republicans destroy the economy it is going to make it much tougher for the President to be reelected whether he gets credit for the budget deal that destroys it or not (though given the slate of likely challengers he is probably still in good shape). But there's more.

Last Saturday, Mr. Daley addressed Democratic governors who were meeting in Washington and did not even utter the word “Republican,” let alone throw partisan red meat by lambasting the House Republicans’ proposed cuts in education, health services, border control and other programs important to financially struggling states — a purposeful omission, officials said.
Similarly, a week earlier when the House approved those cuts by a party-line vote before dawn, the White House remained silent, though many of Mr. Obama’s priorities would be slashed.
Frustrated Democratic lawmakers and interest groups have been railing to White House aides that Mr. Obama is forfeiting opportunities to draw the public’s attention to what the Republicans’ cuts would mean for programs popular with most voters, including the coveted independents. The aides respond that the time will come for Mr. Obama to join the attack, should Republicans press their agenda and refuse to compromise.
What this bit in the article suggests is that there is some line that the Republicans could cross that would make the President say no. Of course he has given no hint what that line is so the Republicans keep pressing and they have the field to themselves. Why, its all part of the plan

“One of the lessons of the last two years is that if the president weighs in all the time, it’s less impactful,” said Dan Pfeiffer, who remains as the communications director. “But if he weighs in at a moment of his choosing when the public is paying attention, it will be more influential.”
So he is just biding his time waiting for the moment to strike? Maybe, but in the meantime he has ceded the field to the Republicans (having already accepted their framing of the deficit as the problem). Maybe he can work some magic with some kind of strategic strike, but more likely he's just going to get rolled again.


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