It’s easy to lose track of President Obama’s real liabilities. The Republican field is not exactly wowing the party let alone the country. But that doesn’t mean the eventual winner won’t have plenty of targets in the general election. House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan noted today in response to the announcement that the president will delay release of his budget:
I am deeply disappointed in this President’s abdication of leadership when it comes to prioritizing Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars. The decision to delay the release of his budget again could not come at a more precarious moment for our fiscal and economic future. This will mark the third time in four years the President has missed his statutory requirement to present a budget on time, while trillion-dollar budget deficits continue to mount. As the President announces another missed deadline, tomorrow marks the 1,000th day Senate Democrats have gone without any budget at all.
Having buried Americans under trillions of dollars of debt, the President and his party’s leaders remain unwilling to account for their spending spree. The lack of credible budget plans from the President and his party’s leaders raises the question: What are they hiding? Given their refusal to advance serious spending restraints and reforms, the President seems unwilling to specify the extent of the job-destroying tax increases and disruptive health-care rationing required to make a dent in his borrowing binge. The merciless math of Washington’s current fiscal trajectory requires tough decisions and principled leadership, which leaders are supposed to offer in the form of budgets. Rather than tackle these challenges head-on, this President continues to punt, while his party’s leaders in the Senate have simply abandoned responsible budgeting altogether.
While the President’s failures delay the Fiscal Year 2013 budget process, House Republicans remain committed to advancing solutions that get American back on track. We deserve better than a President unwilling to meet his legal and moral obligation to tackle our nation’s most pressing challenges. We deserve better than the President’s path to debt, doubt and decline.
Indeed, the president’s abject lack of leadership on entitlement reform is likely to be the target not only of the GOP House but the presidential contenders as well.
Then there are the revelations in the 57-page Larry Summers memo released by Ryan Lizza. Jim Pethokoukis summarizes the most egregious items (a fuller explanation of each can be found in Pethokoukis’s post):
1. The stimulus was about implementing the Obama agenda.
2. Team Obama knows these deficits are dangerous (although it has offered no long-term plan to deal with them).
3. Obamanomics was pricier than advertised.
4. Even Washington can only spend so much money so fast.
5. Liberals can complain about the stimulus having too many tax cuts, but even Team Obama thought more spending was unrealistic.
6. Team Obama wanted to use courts to force massive mortgage principal writedowns.
7. Team Obama thought a stimulus plan of more than $1 trillion would spook financial markets and send interest rates climbing.
8. Greg Mankiw, economic adviser to Mitt Romney, was dubious about the stimulus.
9. But the Fed was a stimulus enabler.
10. IPAB [Independent Payment Advisory Board] was there at the very beginning.
11. The financial crisis wasn’t just Wall Street’s fault.
In sum, Obama is exceptionally vulnerable for mishandling and neglect of what has come to be seen as among the country’s most critical problems: our fiscal trainwreck. These items reveal an inability or unwillingness to govern, and they give the impression that, far from being a technocrat and wonk, Obama was and is a light-weight whose only real talent has been rhetoric (and even that has lost its charm).
It’s vital for the GOP to nominate a candidate with serious and substantive accomplishments. We are in quite a fix as a country, and the most obvious culprit is a president in over his head. In order to defeat him, however, the Republicans better offer a more capable and credible alternative.