President Obama is already at 11 on a partisan scale of 1 to 10. We can only imagine what he’ll be like in October. His speeches are more like screeds. Yesterday’s was ostensibly about the budget, but since the Democrats haven’t passed one in three years in the Senate and Obama has yet to offer a serious approach to entitlement reform and long-term debt control, he returned to his standard fare — ad hominem attacks, over-the-top accusations and out-and-out misrepresentations. The Post reported:
President Obama delivered a stern and stinging rebuke of the Republican budget plan Tuesday, charging that his GOP rivals seek to impose a “radical vision” on the nation by creating a form of “social Darwinism” that pits the poor against the wealthy . . . . For the first time since launching his reelection effort a year ago, Obama mentioned Romney by name, mocking him for calling the House budget drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) “marvelous.”
The president’s speech drew rapid criticism from his Republican rivals. Ryan blasted Obama for choosing to “duck and run” instead of dealing with the burgeoning national debt.
I’m not sure why he doesn’t like the word “marvelous,” but that was the least of the off-putting notes in his remarks.
The Romney camp responded with a written statement: “If President Obama is assigning blame for the country’s debt and deficits, he should look no further than his own budget blueprints. After piling on trillions of dollars in new debt in his first three years in office, the last thing President Obama is qualified to lecture on is responsible federal spending.” The campaign also put forth a helpful compendium of Obama’s spending, his debt accumulation (“The National Debt has now increased more during President Obama’s three years and two months in office than it did during 8 years of the George W. Bush presidency. The Debt rose $4.899 trillion during the two terms of the Bush presidency. It has now gone up $4.939 trillion since President Obama took office”) and his failure to sign a budget or embrace serious entitlement reform.
Obama is obviously vamping because his own record is indefensible. The Wall Street editorial board reminds us that “the budget has grown by more than 20% since he has been President. After deficits of $1.412 trillion, $1.293 trillion, and $1.299 trillion over the last three years, and an estimated $1.326 trillion due for 2012, he still claims the deficits are all Mr. Bush’s fault—except for the extra spending on Medicare, which he likes. It is especially rich of Mr. Obama to accuse Republicans of breaking last summer’s debt-limit deal—given that even the most sympathetic press accounts that are now emerging make it clear that the President blew up his ‘big deal’ with John Boehner.”
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who seems to already be playing the role of running mate to Romney, issued a retort as well. His office released this statement:
History will not be kind to a President who, when it came time to confront our generation’s defining challenge, chose to duck and run. The President refuses to take responsibility for the economy and refuses to offer a credible plan to address the most predictable economic crisis in our history. Instead, he has chosen tired and cynical political attacks as he focuses on his own re-election. . . . Like his reckless budgets, today’s speech by President Obama is as revealing as it is disappointing: While others lead by offering real solutions, he has chosen to distort the truth and divide Americans in order to distract from his failed record.
Even more effective was Ryan’s detailed debunking of Obama’s assertions. A couple of details give a sense of how blatantly Obama was willing to bend the facts. On Medicare reform, for example, Ryan explains:
CLAIM: “If health care costs rise faster than the amount of the voucher — as, by the way, they’ve been doing for decades — that’s too bad.”
REALITY: That too is wrong. Under competitive bidding, there is no risk that any senior will be unable to afford his or her guaranteed Medicare benefits. There will always be one plan that is fully covered by the premium-support payment, and there will always be one plan that costs even less. Lower-income seniors and those with greater health risks receive extra protection – fully funded savings accounts to offset out-of-pocket costs and risk-adjusted payments to cover greater health care needs. Bipartisan experts agree that implementing these reforms in Medicare could be the key to putting downward pressure on health care costs for everyone.
Ryan likewise dismantles Obama’s claims on education, training and investment in basic research (“The Obama administration has steered government away from investments in basic research and toward investments in specific companies, often controlled by top donors to the Democratic Party. The Path to Prosperity would continue funding essential government missions, including energy security and basic research and development, while putting an end to the administration’s crony politics. The Path to Prosperity rejects the administration’s insistence on taking from hardworking taxpayers in order to fuel special interest favoritism, like its failed ‘investments’ in specific companies like the now-bankrupt solar company Solyndra.”)
Yuval Levin also documents a number of other misstatements, writing:
The Ryan budget doesn’t call for across the board cuts. And that budget calls for the Ways and Means Committee to propose a revenue-neutral tax reform that would lower rates while eliminating loopholes—so it wouldn’t deny the government revenue it now has but would seek ways to obtain it that are more conducive to growth (and of course those loopholes benefit the wealthy above all). But the dishonesty is not the most extraordinary thing about this speech. The most extraordinary thing is the basic vision of American life it lays out: The president talks as though the liberal welfare state were not crumbling all around him, as though his budget does not abide (indeed, prescribe) an unprecedented explosion of debt that will crush American prosperity in the coming decades, as though all the money earned by all Americans were simply a pot for the government to spend as it wishes and allowing people to keep more of their earnings were just one way to spend it.
It is entirely possible on some or all of his claims that Obama was misinformed and not intending to falsify the record. After all, he showed himself in the health-care summit to be badly outmanned and under-informed when up against Ryan. Either way, the president has an obligation to get his facts right. His credibility is already at the breaking point on the debt and the economy, and this will surely not help.
In the meantime, where is Obama’s credible plan for debt reduction? What happened to Simpson-Bowles?
As the lawyer joke goes, when you have the facts on your side, pound way at the facts; when you have the law on your side, pound away at the law; and when you have neither, pound the table. Or holler at Paul Ryan.