President Obama’s charm offensive has been a dismal failure. Of course, he didn’t really try all that hard. He bought dinner for a few Republican lawmakers, vowed to meet them halfway, but within a week — after his gun-grab bill went up in flames — he called them “liars” and stomped off in a huff, taking his ball with him.
The midterm elections in 2014 will decide whether the president can actually implement his far-reaching socialist agenda or if he’ll have to settle for the federal takeover of one-sixth of the nation’s economy with Obamacare.
In the meantime, Mr. Obama, like Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton before him, is stuck with a divided Congress. Yet unlike his two predecessors, this president has almost nothing nice to say about the coequal branch or the men and woman elected by Americans to represent their dreams and goals. In fact, he’s spent the past four years setting Congress up as the fall guy for all his faults, even more so now that he no longer can blame Mr. Bush.
This week was no different. After injecting politics into the festive dedication of Mr. Bush’s library in Dallas by pushing amnesty for illegal aliens, the president upped the bitterness with a biting weekend screed directed at Republicans.
“Two months ago, Congress allowed a series of automatic budget cuts to fall across the federal government that would do the opposite,” he said. “Because of these reckless cuts, there are parents whose kids just got kicked out of Head Start programs scrambling for a solution. There are seniors who depend on programs like Meals on Wheels to live independently looking for help. There are military communities — families that have already sacrificed enough — coping under new strains. All because of these cuts.
“This week, the sequester hurt travelers, who were stuck for hours in airports and on planes, and rightly frustrated by it. And, maybe because they fly home each weekend, the members of Congress who insisted these cuts take hold finally realized that they actually apply to them, too.”
What’s odd, though, is that the so-called sequester, done right, should have had almost no impact on any federal agency. Why? The automatic budget cuts, agreed to by both parties as a way to get serious about deficit reductions and once heartily endorsed by the president, trim just 2 cents out of every dollar (to extend, that’s $2 of every $100, just $20 of every $1,000).
But the president toured the country on a months-long PR blitz to tell Americans the end was near, to actually assert to taxpayers — who are trimming budgets by 20, 30, 40 percent to make ends meet — that the federal government is so lean that it can’t possibly withstand a 2 percent dip. He said there’d be long lines at airports, children would suffer, the homeless and seniors would be hurt.
And lo, that’s just what happened.
Officials in bright-blue Connecticut held a press conference (!) to announce cuts to Head Start, a prekindergarten program for low-income families. But instead of cutting administrators, maybe trimming salaries, the agency cut people from the program (although none of the officials blamed the Obama administration’s lack of success on creating jobs for the 100-family-plus waiting list now waiting for aid).
Meanwhile, in bluer-than-blue San Francisco, officials announced that a 2 percent drop in federal aid meant Meals on Wheels would have to eliminate 200 people from its roster of 1,200 seniors in the program — a 17 percent reduction.
“The sequestration was a bridge way too far,” program director Paul Kraintz said.
And of course the Federal Aviation Administration furloughed hundreds of air traffic controllers, unable to find a dime to cut from its $15 billion budget. Millions of taxpayers were stuck in four-hour waits at airports across the country — just as the president had predicted.
Now, Mr. Obama could have ordered all federal agencies to make those fairly painless cuts in ways that didn’t affect the people the programs were meant to serve — an obvious solution, you’d think. But the opposite occurred, likely at his direction. The paltry 2 percent across-the-board cuts were needled up to have the greatest adverse effect on Americans — the people who pay for the programs in the first place.
But wait, why would he do such a thing?! Simple: Politics — and someone to blame.
“Congress passed a temporary fix. A Band-Aid. But these cuts are scheduled to keep falling across other parts of the government that provide vital services for the American people. And we can’t just keep putting Band-Aids on every cut. It’s not a responsible way to govern. There is only one way to truly fix the sequester: by replacing it before it causes further damage,” he said.
“That pain is real,” he added.
Very real. And so is The New America, in which a president intentionally makes problems worse in order to gain the upper hand politically.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times and is now editor of the Drudge Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @josephcurl.