February 19, 2013
President Barack Obama speaks about the sequester. (Charles Dharapak/Associated Press)
President Barack Obama speaks about the sequester. (Charles Dharapak/Associated Press)

This post has been updated.

The president seemed bothered and agitated this morning as he spoke about the reality of the approaching sequestration that he signed into law last year in 2011. In his unusually hurried, rambling and ad-libbed comments, the president’s exasperation is clear. The president clearly doesn’t like to deal in the specific; he wants to govern via platitudes. The president prefers public applause to the grind of making Washington work.

I assume today’s comments were designed to penetrate the public consciousness and influence what members of Congress might hear from their constituents while they are home for the President’s Day recess. Unless your congressional district is home to a substantial number of defense contractors, it is unlikely sequestration will be a priority topic for the town hall meetings that members of Congress will have this week. In GOP districts, before the discussion gets around to sequestration, I suspect members will hear a lot about jobs, guns and gas prices. And the discussion about jobs will focus on private sector employment, not government jobs. Also, Republicans will be universally encouraged to not give any more ground on taxes and spending.

Thanks to redistricting, I think it’s completely possible that the issues that will be talked about in Republican-held districts are different than the issues that will be discussed in Democratic districts. You’re not being partisan if you represent your constituents’ point of view, but in many districts, the view of the constituents is almost monolithic. This is a problem but it is also reality. So don’t expect Republican members to hear any support for Obama’s assault on private-sector employment or his ideologically-based initiatives on global climate change, more government spending or gun control. Conversely, with limited exceptions, I don’t expect many Democrats to hear that they shouldn’t raise taxes on private-sector employers, etc.

Nothing about the message the Republican caucus will hear from their voters will make House Speaker John Boehner think he shouldn’t hold the line against any and all calls for tax increases. And Republicans are likely to hear that reckless spending cuts are better than no spending cuts at all. No one believes the president when he suggests that he and the Democrats in the Senate are willing to support serious spending controls. If they had any spending discipline, we would know it by now. Perhaps if the president and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had produced a budget in the last four years, they would have more credibility in their claims today. I suspect a lot of voters, especially GOP voters, think the president and Reid specifically, and Washington generally, are crying wolf.

P.S. to readers: Does anybody know how President Obama defines “middle class”? Has he ever said what the income range is that he is trying to promote and protect in his advocacy for the middle class? I ask this not to make a point, but because I don’t know the answer. Please comment if you have it.

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.