I thought it was a disgrace. I’ve rarely heard a speech by a president so shallow, so hyper-partisan, and so intellectually dishonest — outside of the last couple of weeks of a presidential election where you’re allowed to call your opponent anything short of a traitor.
But we’re a year and a half away from Election Day and this was supposed to be a speech about policy. He didn’t even get to his own alternative until more than halfway through the speech. And when he did, he threw out these numbers suspended in midair with nothing under them — with all kinds of goals and guidelines and triggers which mean absolutely nothing. The speech was really about — and it was almost entirely — an attack on the Ryan plan. And it was deeply dishonest.
Let me give you one example of how dishonest it was. He went on and on about how the Republicans want to steal from your grandma to lower taxes on the rich. And he talked about the Bush tax cuts and how much he’s going to stand on the bridge and oppose any extension — which is what he knows how to do, he’s done it over and over for the last six years.
The Ryan plan is not about the Bush tax cuts. It transcends them. It’s about what Obama’s own [deficit] commission had recommended, that you strip out loopholes and you lower the rates for everyone. It’s not about whether it should be the Bush rates or the Clinton rates. It’s a whole new approach which the Simpson-Bowles commission had recommended itself — in fact Bowles had recommended in one of its scenarios a high rate of 23 percent. Ryan’s at 25 percent.
Obama did this knowing that this is a way to play to his base. It was a speech that was quite remarkable in how demagogic it was — and I say that with all due respect. …
And the degree of the mendacity of this — he gave the impression that what the Republicans are proposing is to change Medicare today. It won’t affect the seniors alive today anyway. It won’t affect anybody — under the Ryan Republican proposal — it won’t affect anybody under the age of 55. But he [Obama] made it sound like your granny is under attack.
He made it sound as if it’s a fight about the Bush tax cuts. That is not what the Ryan plan is about. It is about tax reform. His attack was entirely mendacious.
Look, I don’t know how many times he gets a swing at the ball before people recognize that he’s not serious about the debt. As A.B. [Stoddard] pointed out, he had his [deficit reduction] commission, he ignored it. He had the State of the Union, which was astonishing — he didn’t use the word debt until he was more than halfway through that speech. And then of course, in the budget — which does nothing except explode the debt. …
I think this speech was a speech to his base, no one else. And what he was saying is: I’m really smart. Let me show you that I’m with you on this, opposing any real cuts — but I’m smart enough that I’ll pretend that I’m a cutter and I’m a deficit reducer and I will work across the aisle, as I did [campaign] in 2008. I can get away with it. I’m clever. I’ll show you how I can do it. I’ll do it [playing centrist] in half of this speech — and I’ll run all the way until Election Day next year demagoguing Ryan and pretending I’m a centrist.