David Nakamura and Zachary A. Goldfarb wrote a good piece in The Post today titled "Obama public relations effort aims to avoid 'fiscal cliff'." Actually, the president is on a PR tour to avoid dealing with the issue and to place blame on Republicans when we do go over the cliff.
The White House is nothing if not forthright. Yesterday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "I don't think there is a lot of faith that a bunch of people sitting around a table are going to solve problems on behalf of the American people." Well, he's right if one of those people is President Obama. The president doesn't have the desire or the skills to solve the problem by sitting down with other government leaders.
The president's campaign/PR strategy makes sense. The president then has a role to play; on the stump he can taunt Republicans with slogans and shallow rhetoric and not much else. He has not developed enough of a mastery of the details to engage with Congress over the federal budget or economic issues.
The president doesn't really know the leaders of Congress, and he doesn't appear to like them much either. He believes he is the smartest person in any room and there is no point in sitting with his more-limited counterparts. They might actually expose his lack of concern and insincerity, or the Democrats' ambivalence about going over the cliff. The administration's plan to rattle around in public, lamenting the failures and biases of Republicans, will get a lot of reinforcement from the media. And the president will receive plenty of pats on the back when he frowns in faux sadness after we go over the cliff. All this is meant to hide the real reason Washington could very well end up doing nothing; the Democrats will not restrain the growth of entitlement spending. It doesn't fit with their idea of promoting a dependent society and protecting their power by doling out money to those that keep them in office.
There isn't even much news coverage about limiting spending — it's all about Republicans and taxes. The idea of spending restraints on entitlements isn't really part of the debate in the media, not even in the story referenced above.
This is beginning to feel like President Clinton's drubbing of House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the battle over spending that led to the government shutdowns and a debacle for Republicans in late 1995 and into 1996. As long as the story is about Republicans and taxes and the public is led to believe our problems will be solved if we just raise taxes, then Obama has a big advantage. His PR plan to avoid having to agree to any spending restraints and to blame the GOP for protecting the rich could be effective, but it won't save us from a potentially devastating recession.