The president, as suggested here yesterday, is in a political jam, and his approval ratings are starting to suffer. It appears as if he made a damaging miscalculation, confusing governing with campaigning. Before the sequester, he scored a lot of points excoriating Republican intransigence. That was easy; Republicans are stuck on a tax policy that was discredited two decades ago and a fiscal policy that lost favor during the Great Depression. The president’s poll numbers rose.
As the sequester loomed, the president, one assumes, thought he could use his new clout to browbeat Republicans into capitulation. Essentially equating the sequester with a government shutdown, the president put his entire Cabinet’s credibility out front to sell the immediate and disastrous consequences that would begin immediately on March 1. This strategy failed; planes still fly and battleships still float.
So where is the president today? In a place he could have foreseen. Head of a government that isn’t working, credibility damaged, poll numbers dropping. Like it or not, he owns the sequester now, and all Republicans have to do is let him stew. Oddly, though, and fortuitously for the president, the Republicans seem bent on governing. Rep. Paul Ryan seems determined to make his House Republicans vote on measures to gut entitlements. Normally, the party that controls the presidency and one chamber of Congress tries to govern while the other party plays politics. This reversal is just another sign of how strange this town is right now.