President Obama’s decision to treat the supercommittee with benign neglect is getting poor reviews, as I noted earlier. Liberal New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg sounds (“It’s the chief executive’s job to bring people together and to provide leadership.”) like my conservative Post colleague Michael Gerson (“He is attempting to run against the failures of a political process he is supposed to lead. He wants to campaign against the brokenness of a system he was hired to repair. His critique is a confession of ineffectiveness.”)
This is what comes from Obama pretending (and trying to convince his base) that he’s actually going to be running against House and Senate Republicans. He might try to blame them, but his opponent in 2012 will describe an entirely different approach to executive leadership, one in which the president lays out the plan, cajoles the parties, compromises and sells the country on what he is doing.
What is Obama to say when Mitt Romney or Rick Perry or another Republican says in the general-election campaign: “If the president had engaged, the supercommittee wouldn’t have failed”? He can say, “I knew it was doomed” (but then why sign the original debt reduction deal?) or he can say that he couldn't persuade Republicans (an admission that he lacks credibility with the GOP).
Obama could have taken a different course at multiple junctures. He could have embraced the recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson commission. He could have put forth his own fiscal reform package in his State of the Union address or later in response to the Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) budget. He could have declined to move the goal posts and instead embraced the Reid-McConnell-Boehner summer debt deal. He never did any of that. He consistently decided to rally and play to his base, declining to use some political capital to reach out to moderate Republicans. He could never lead, only demagogue.
And you see it now in the chorus of liberal pundits echoing the White House talking points. It’s the Republicans’ fault! The GOP only defends the rich. This is frankly lame, considering the president in three years hasn’t offered his own plan. And where was Obama in the first two years when the Democrats controlled everything?
The president will have virtually nothing to run on in 2012. ObamaCare may be ruled unconstitutional, and in any event, it isn’t popular. He hasn’t reformed the tax code or entitlements. The economy is still limping and unemployment will remain high for the foreseeable future. His entire argument to voters? The GOP is mean. I may have done nothing but the Republican nominee is worse. It is the most cynical approach to politics possible, one which will and should depress all those idealistic young (and old) voters who thought Obama would be better than all the other pols. In fact, he’s worse.