President’s Second Term Prescription: Poison Pill PoliticsBy Clark S. Judge, managing director, White House Writers Group, Inc.; chairman, Pacific Research Institute
FoxNews.com posted a home page story this evening that began, “President Obama pinned the blame on Republicans Tuesday for looming spending cuts that may be triggered by what was originally a White House proposal….”
Hasn’t staging one deadlock after another been the Obama White House’s transparent game plan since Day One of Term Two?
Wasn’t that incredible inaugural address – the most radical second term curtain raiser since FDR’s in 1937 – a signal that times of turbulence were on the administration’s agenda?
Don’t seek common ground, as Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and, yes, George W. Bush did at the start of their second terms. No. Seek a climate of confrontation, then blame it on the Congressional GOP.
It is all so easy, this White House strategy.
Offer to talk, but plant a poison pill in every proposal.
Maybe that pill is the insistence on more taxes after the GOP gave at the fiscal cliff.
Maybe it’s the president telling John Boehner that the nation has no spending problem -- saying this when deficits are running a trillion dollars a year and, according to multiple media reports, much of the world is counting the days before the United States has borrowed itself into insignificance.
Maybe it is leaking the president’s immigration program so it can blow like a hurricane across the political landscape at just the time that a bipartisan Congressional immigration proposal, like a newborn colt, is struggling to rise on wobbly legs.
Oh, wait, that’s right; distributing the draft plan all through the administration was not a leak. My, oh, my, did it land in the hands of reporters? I cannot imagine how.
The point is, that somehow, some way, the president and his staff always find a way to make deals that could work, not work.
Over the weekend, Senator Rand Paul was interviewed on one of the Sunday morning shows. Senator Paul is comparatively new to Washington and in policy debates a tough cookie. But clearly he understands that there is a way to get things done when you have a large collection of tough and committed men and women, each with his or her own constituencies and convictions. He told the interviewer, “This is not the way things are done,” meaning you cannot bring people together to pass legislation operating in the manner the president and his team are operating.
By the way, recognizing that the opposition has convictions, too, is part of making things work in Washington. For despite what we hear, a man or woman of conviction in this capital city is not like Groucho Marx’s man of convictions. You know: “I have convictions. If you don’t like them, I have other convictions.”
So a successful president like Ronald Reagan spends time listening and flattering and telling laugh-out-loud stories to the crowd on Capitol Hill – and has a staff that more or less does the same.
To date, the Obama crowd has had a free ride with its legislative boorishness. But I question if that will continue.
I gave a number of interviews in the days before and after the State of the Union address – newspapers, radio, TV, in other words, the circuit. I made basically the same argument I am making here. I expected push back. You know, “But isn’t the atmosphere of confrontation the fault of Republican obstruction?” And, yes, I got a little, but surprisingly little. And when I pointed out the president’s in-your-face history with Congressional Republicans, they backed off.
Still, I can’t help feeling it’s really a shame. The nation could have had a broad bipartisan compromise on entitlement reform and maybe even discretionary spending restraint in the later Clinton years. Bill’s narcissistic romp with Monica Lewinski killed that. We might have had it under George W. Bush, too – but the War on Terror and the deteriorating situations in Iraq and Afghanistan ended any hope of Social Security or other domestic spending reforms.
And now we have a president who looks at spending that has reached a peacetime record 25 percent of GDP and says, it is not enough, not even close. And blames the Republicans.
What do they say? God protects children, foolish drunks and the United States of American. The way we’re going, we’ll need His hand.