Why hasn’t he been leading? It is the same reason Republicans refuse to give him any more tax revenue: He does not want to make significant changes in the nation’s entitlement programs or to curtail spending in any meaningful way. After four years in office, surely Obama could have presented a budget or a concrete plan in writing to the GOP that would do those things. That he hasn’t done so should have alerted responsible advocates on the right and left that this is not a president who takes our debt problem seriously and/or is willing to endure criticism from partisans — as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has done on immigration or Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has done on entitlements. Rather than taking the election as an opportunity to expend political capital in the interest of the country’s long-term fiscal condition, he took it as a license to demagogue. He and his most fervent supporters have chosen to convince themselves that the other side is a bunch of malicious liars. This is why he will not lead.
Republicans rightly suspect Obama simply wants to tax and spend some more. They simply cannot justify giving him additional revenue when, by the president’s own admission (that is what a budget is), he will simply spend it on more domestic programs. Liberals say progress can’t be made on the debt without revenue; Ryan and Senate budget-makers will show how. It might not be a formula that liberals like and may entail a redesign of welfare and entitlement programs. But at least Republicans will show the consequences of their views on taxes and illustrate how entitlement reform can shift the balance away from discretionary cuts.
When the Republicans stonewalled on the debt ceiling in 2011, liberal pundits accused them of trying to destroy the economy. Now that Obama refuses easy fixes (e.g. more discretion to departments to make smart cuts), it seems only fair to hold him responsible for preferring chaos and “holding the country hostage.”
The media have discovered the president is a hypocrite when it comes to selling access to high rollers. They now complain he isn’t transparent. A few have figured out his Middle East policy is in shambles. Now perhaps there will be growing awareness that the president is unserious and irresponsible on the biggest domestic challenge of our time. It’s hard to remember: What was the argument in favor of his reelection?