The Post reports:
Obama will not blaze a fresh path when he delivers a much-anticipated speech Wednesday afternoon at George Washington University. Instead, he is expected to offer support for the [debt] commission’s work and a related effort underway in the Senate to develop a strategy for curbing borrowing. Obama will frame the approach as a responsible alternative to the 2012 plan unveiled last week by House Republicans, according to people briefed by the White House.
Letting others take the lead on complex problems has become a hallmark of the Obama presidency. On health care, last year’s tax deal and the recent battle over 2011 spending cuts, Obama has repeatedly waited as others set the parameters of the debate, swooping in late to cut a deal. The tactic has produced significant victories but exposed Obama to criticism that he has shown a lack of leadership.
The Post reporters also note that Obama will speak favorably of the so-called Gang of Six, a group of senators who favor a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts.
But what does this really mean? Saying nice things about a panel whose specific proposals he never endorsed and which are an anathema to much of his party doesn’t seem like a formula to move the ball ahead. A senior Republican Senate aide deems the “let others lead” approach as “ridiculous,” given the necessity of presidential leadership if we are to make progress on the debt.
Moreover, to the extent he is endorsing the Gang of Six’s work, he’s rubber-stamping cotton candy. The group has been talking in vague generalities (is the mix of cuts 80 percent to 20 percent or 90 percent to 10 percent). The Post’s report observes, “While lawmakers in both parties say they support the principle of shared sacrifice, its particulars are proving no less thorny than any other deficit reduction strategy. The Gang of Six has been struggling for weeks to reach agreement on a framework for budget changes that would leave policy details to be worked out in legislative committees.”
The details are the whole ball of wax here. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had the nerve to lay out a precise plan. Will the president? If not, maybe it is time to find a chief executive who will.