Congressional Republicans were smart to invite President Obama to address them in Baltimore last Friday. And it was great that Mr. Obama accepted and was willing to take questions.
But the president told some real whoppers. According to Mr. Obama, he basically kept his promise to broadcast health care discussions on C-SPAN. During the campaign when he promised “I’m going to have all the negotiations around a big table” and have them broadcast on C-SPAN, he was only referring to the “congressional hearings” that have been televised for decades. He told the Republicans that the deals to give unions a $60 billion tax break or the negotiations with Sens. Ben Nelson or Mary L. Landrieu to give their home states special preferences were not the important part of the negotiations.
He also likes us to believe that the stimulus lowered the unemployment rate. Supposedly there are no “credible economists” who claim that the president’s stimulus failed to improve the nation’s unemployment rate. He must mean no economists currently accepting a White House paycheck.
On the deficit, Mr. Obama acted as if his $862 billion stimulus package, his more than $400 billion supplemental domestic spending bill, his new $300 billion stimulus spending, and other spendingincreasesaren’t responsible for out-of-control spending. Republicans didn’t support this spending, but he warned them: “We simply cannot continue to spend as if deficits do not have consequences.” During the last year that Republicans controlled Washington, they ran a sickeningly huge deficit of $248 billion, less than 2 percent of GDP. This next year Mr. Obama wants a record $1.6 trillion deficit, 11 percent of GDP. There are no words that can do justice to the size of that deficit.
In the face of that mind-boggling deficit number born of a liberal spending spree, his most comical statement was: “I am not an ideologue.”
Still, to his credit, Mr. Obama did make some concessions. When confronted about his promises that “if you want to keep the health insurance you got, you can keep it, that you’re not going to have anybody getting in between you and your doctor in your decision-making,” he admitted: “Some of the provisions that got snuck in might have violated that pledge.” Might?
And what about his administration’s constant refrain over the last year that Republicans fail to offer any alternatives to his plans - that they are the “party of no?” He at least implicitly admitted that this was a lie all along. As one Republican congressman after another pointed to proposals they had made during the stimulus and health care debates, there was little else the president could do.
Mr. Obama’s trip to Baltimore was a single step towards his pledge of renewed bipartisanship and a changed tone in Washington. But for his effort to have any real meaning, Mr. Obama is going to have to bring his rhetoric into closer alignment with reality.