So what I’m waiting to see Thursday is whether the president says he will veto any plan that addresses deficits while ignoring joblessness. If he wants to appeal to the presumed mass of deficit-hating independents, he can also say he will veto any plan that addresses joblessness without dealing with deficits, though no such plan is likely to emerge. Since the twin priorities here are passing something and letting voters know what you stand for, then the way forward would seem clear: Stand firm until something you can support actually passes. A speech — or even two speeches — won’t lead to new legislation, and it won’t command enough sustained public attention or media coverage to make voters of any stripe sit up and notice.
I agree wholeheartedly with the first veto challenge. It makes absolutely no sense to keep focusing on the deficit while ignoring joblessness. I disagree with the second because we cannot afford to wait for Congress to agree on a deficit reduction plan before passing a stimulus. Besides, it would give conservatives an excuse to do nothing about the unemployed. But there is another veto threat worth making: that he would veto a deficit reduction package if it did not include new revenue. That is both right – we will never solve the deficit problem without tax increases of some kind – and politically popular.
What Ezra is absolutely right about is that this speech has to convey strength of conviction. Veto threats are one way to do that.