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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Obama Triangulation

John Harwood writes:

President Obama made another effort last week to project fiscal discipline — and reminded Congressional Democrats why he sometimes exasperates them.

Amid heightened public concern over spending, the White House disclosed that Mr. Obama wanted increased authority to strip wasteful projects from spending bills.

That is, wasteful projects placed in spending bills by members of Congress — which is controlled by Democrats, who do not appreciate the suggestion that, while doing Mr. Obama’s bidding in a threatening election season, they have not been minding the fiscal store.

“Congress is working to try and rein in spending — how about pointing that out?” groused Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland. Mr. Van Hollen said the political fault lines that count divided Democrats from Republicans, not the White House from Congress, and “the president has not done enough to draw those distinctions.”

One problem with Van Hollen's comment is that Congress has failed to pass a budget resolution this year, and that failure is giving ammunition to the GOP. And as The Hill reports:

Democratic leaders are looking in the next three weeks to send President Barack Obama a slew of measures that cost more than $200 billion, including a multiyear extension of unemployment benefits, an extension of expiring tax provisions and Medicare doctor payments totaling $180 billion and a $33 billion Afghanistan war supplemental bill.

Harwood notes that presidents typically have some conflict with Congress, even when their own party is in charge. He continues:

Addressing the Business Council last week on the economy and financial reform, Mr. Obama did not speak the words “Democrat” or “Republican.” Instead, he urged Americans to abandon the “easy talking points” and “good political theater” of Washington.

“Politicians can rail against Wall Street, or against each other,” he said. “It just traps us in the same debates that have held us back for a very long time.”

The president sounds very much like Bill Clinton. In 2000, as his own administration was winding down, Clinton looked back and said:

And yet, in Washington, we just kept repeating over and over and over again the same debates. Each party took the same sides, staked out the same opposite position. Paralysis occurred, and the results were not particularly satisfying to the American people.