February 25, 2013

President Obama is proceeding unapologetically in making the sequester cuts appear as bad as possible. The president and the Democrats are heavily invested in the idea that sequestration is apocalyptic and no part of America will escape the pain. To prove his point, he will need as much made-for-TV-suffering as possible.  Appointees in the administration are on notice: The president says these cuts are harmful, and the harm done needs to be dramatic and well-publicized. No Cabinet officer or other Democratic official anywhere better be caught managing the budget cuts in such a way that minimizes the harm to taxpayers.

In a perverse twist, the Obama administration is in a position where it wins only if things are really bad and there is a lot of suffering. We could be about to witness Washington’s most vivid display of mismanagement and non-management ever — and that is saying something.

In today’s Post, Zachary A. Goldfarb and Paul Kane matter-of-factly report on Obama’s campaign to spread the news of the sequester to every state, thereby repeating his instructions, lest any Democrat in office missed the point. Obama needs pain and trauma felt in every corner of the country; the more the better.

Administration officials and their allies in the media are probably already cooperating on identifying and staging the best or worst — depending on your point of view — possible impact of the budget cuts. It would not surprise me if the Washington area is in for special neglect and harassment from the Obama administration. There is a special need to create long lines at airports and other such visible torment so that members of Congress can witness for themselves what they have wrought.

Democrats are counting on the political reality that, while the public supports the idea of budget cuts in the abstract, they often don’t approve of specific cuts. Just about every dollar spent seems like a good idea when viewed in isolation.

What should Republicans do? Be credible in supporting and defending the alternatives to sequestration and scream about them. The government is holding its own taxpayers hostage, and the torture is about to start.

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.