There is little debate that across-the-board spending cuts in education funding will cause pain for some schools and states. But there is no reason to hype the statistics — or to make scary pronouncements on pink slips being issued based on misinformation.
Indeed, Duncan’s lack of seriousness about being scrupulously factual undercuts the administration’s claim that the cuts are a serious problem.
Duncan made this claim not once, not twice, but three times.
So much for his reputation.
Even worse are the White House’s bullying tactics, which treat all dissent — even inconvenient facts! — as treachery. Bob Woodward described what ensued after a half-hour “tirade” by a White House aide (later revealed by the White House to be economic adviser Gene Sperling) about his reporting on the White House’s authorship of the sequester:
Woodward said the tirade was followed by a page-long email from the aide, one of the four or five administration officials most closely involved in the fiscal negotiations with the Hill. “I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today,” the official typed. “You’re focusing on a few specific trees that give a very wrong impression of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here. … I think you will regret staking out that claim.”
Woodward repeated the last sentence, making clear he saw it as a veiled threat. “ ‘You’ll regret.’ Come on,” he said. “I think if Obama himself saw the way they’re dealing with some of this, he would say, ‘Whoa, we don’t tell any reporter ‘you’re going to regret challenging us.’ ”
“They have to be willing to live in the world where they’re challenged,” Woodward continued in his calm, instantly recognizable voice. “I’ve tangled with lots of these people. But suppose there’s a young reporter who’s only had a couple of years — or 10 years’ — experience and the White House is sending him an email saying, ‘You’re going to regret this.’ You know, tremble, tremble. I don’t think it’s the way to operate.” The White House declined to comment for this story.
This is monstrously stupid of the White House displaying what we have seen repeatedly: The administration cannot defend its positions on the merits, so it attacks critics. It also suggests a level of desperation rarely seen from the arrogant Obama White House. [UPDATE: The full e-mails reveal less bullying and far more pomposity, suggesting the White House would have its critic’s best interest at heart. ]
The president risks not only losing the sequester battle but also going from halo-crowned messiah to nasty bully in the eyes of at least some in the media and, more important, in the view of the country. The voters have maintained an extraordinarily high level of personal support for Obama (although he got only 51 percent of the vote), despite really rotten economic results. That goodwill may fray or even break if he keeps prevaricating and throwing his weight around.
Well, at least we don’t have politics “as usual,” which Obama bemoaned in the 2008 campaign. No, it is much, much worse. It’s impossible for Obama to achieve Reagan-like status (for reasons discussed here), but he just might become the left’s Nixon if he keeps this up.