* Will Obama draw any hard lines in big deficit reduction speech? The just-resolved budget fight is now pivoting to an even bigger battle over entitlements and the debt ceiling, and the White House’s announcement yesterday of a big Wednesday speech on the deficit appears to be a bid to seize the initiative in that fight and frame it to the President’s advantage.
The general consensus so far is that Obama will offer a target number for deficit reduction, articulate parameters within which he thinks the negotiations should unfold, and reiterate his call for the tax cuts for the rich to expire. What remains to be seen is how clearly — or whether — he’ll articulate core principles he’s unwilling to budge from and whether he’ll articulate a baseline vision that’s non-negotiable.
Will the President indicate that even if he’s willing to entertain Medicare adjustments, the program’s core mission is sacrosanct — period, full stop — and that any talk to the contrary is a conversation-ender? Will he signal firmly enough that any talks that don’t include tax hikes on the rich are a non-starter? Or will the thrust of the speech merely serve to telegraph a willingness to strive for compromise as a goal for its own sake? At bottom, the question is whether Obama will go on the offensive, or whether the speech will put Dems on a weak footing going into this next battle.
* Did Obama really entertain “major changes” to Social Security? The New York Times explains the White House’s thinking on the defict reduction speech as follows:
Several presidential advisers interviewed in recent weeks said Mr. Obama has been torn between wanting to propose major budget changes to entice Republicans to the bargaining table, including on Social Security, and believing they would never agree to raise revenues on upper-income Americans as part of a deal.
It’s hard to imagine that anyone could conclude that it would be a good idea to signal a willingness to entertain major changes to Social Security at the outset, on the theory that it could induce Republicans to make concessions on tax cuts for the rich. So let’s presume this isn’t an indicator of what’s to come in the speech even in the most general sense.
* Plouffe: Tax hikes must be part of discussion: The closest we’ve seen to a hard line so far is when White House adviser David Plouffe said: “Revenues are going to have to be part of this.”
* Pfeiffer vows stark contrast in visions: Also, with Dems increasingly nervous about how Obama will handle the upcoming battles, White House comm director Dan Pfeiffer promises that Obama’s vision will be “starkly different” from the Ryan vision, and strongly rejects any suggestion that Obama’s philosophy has changed.
* Liberals won’t accept any mushy compromise talk: Also in the above link, a good formulation from Bob Borosage of the Campaign for America’s Future:
“They will expect the president to come out right away and expose how preposterous Ryan’s plan is. It’s bald and brazen and incredibly indefensible, and the president better make that clear.”
* But Cantor predicts Obama will “capitulate” in spending battles to come: The House Majority leader, on Fox News Sunday, says the debt ceiling fight will serve as “one of those leverage moments, a time when the President will capitulate to what the American people want.”
Relatedly, Cantor also draws a line against tax hikes, claiming the debate over that topic was already “settled” when Obama presided over a deal on temporary extensions of the tax cuts for the rich.
* Boehner reiterates Medicare is next target: Relatedly, the House Speaker says the budget fight is only a jumping off point for the main event to come: The battle to realize Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposal, which Boehner calls a “powerful buleprint for economic growth and fiscal responsibility.”
The coordinated push by the two top House Republicans to pivot from their previous victory to the next fights to come signal that the Dem willingness to fight out the spending wars mostly on GOP turf is only emboldening Republicans further.
* Obama’s “adult in chief” posture is not enough: E.J. Dionne says it’s time for the president to defend government and to declare that there will be no negotiations with people who threaten to shut it down:
For Obama, it is not good enough to cast himself as the school principal scolding competing congressional gangs. He needs the courage to defend the government he leads. He needs to declare that he will no longer bargain with those who use threats to shut down the government or force it to default on its debt as tools of intimidation. We’re all a bit weary of Obama telling everyone to be grown-ups, but this would be the grown-up thing to do.
* Obama won’t negotiate with himself: A senior adminstration official assures a skeptical Jonathan Cohn that Obama won’t cede any ground to Ryan in his speech.
Also note Cohn’s friendly reminder:
Ryan has proposed something truly radical. He wants to end Medicare and Medicaid as we know it, while taking health insurance away from 30 million people.
This requires a big response from the President.
* And is Paul Ryan the foil Obama badly needs? Glenn Thrush on why it would be in Obama’s interests to run hard against the GOP’s budget point man and his plan to end Medicare as we know it, giving Obama an antagonist he has thus far lacked. And note Paul Begala's interesting simile:
“I hope every Republican in Congress signs on to the Republican plan to kill Medicare, because we will beat ‘em like a bad piece of meat.”
That’s assuming, of course, that Obama is going to take the gloves off.
What else is happening?