The Campaign Spot

A Presidency of Perpetual Crisis

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

A Presidency of Perpetual Crisis

So here are the headlines coming out of the Sunday shows . . .

Boehner ‘flabbergasted’ at fiscal cliff proposal

McCaskill: ‘I Feel Almost Sorry For John Boehner’

Sen. Ayotte ‘disappointed’ in initial White House proposal

Sen. Hatch: Obama fiscal proposal ‘classic bait and switch’

So predictable, isn’t it? During these seemingly-more-frequent showdowns, the purpose of every lawmaker appearing on a Sunday show, no matter the party, is to emphasize how committed they are to a sensible bipartisan compromise that puts the nation’s interest ahead of the special interests, and how the opposition is being extreme, divisive, unyielding, outrageous, et cetera.

This latest round is so irritating because A) it’s just like the campaign rhetoric that we were supposed to see ending on November 6, right down to the president doing rallies in Philadelphia; B) it’s a rerun of the players, issues, tone, and rhetoric of last summer’s debt-ceiling fight; and C) if every outcome to this fiscal cliff stinks, then this is the policy-debate equivalent of taking the Band-Aid off really slowly — like over the course of a month.

I don’t know when buyer’s remorse will kick in for any portion of the slim majority that voted for President Obama, but I look at this fight and wonder how many Americans will look at Washington and groan, “This stuff again? Already?”

This section of Peggy Noonan’s column from this weekend stuck out to me:

The election is over, a new era begins—and it looks just like the old one. A crisis is declared. Confusion, frustration, and a more embittered process follow. This is . . . the Obama Way. Nothing has changed, even after a yearlong campaign that must, at times, have looked to him like a near-death experience. He still doesn’t want to forestall jittery, gloom-laden headlines and make an early deal with the other guy. He wants to beat the other guy.

You watch and wonder: Why does it always have to be cliffs with this president? Why is it always a high-stakes battle? Why doesn’t he shrewdly re-enact Ronald Reagan, meeting, arguing and negotiating in good faith with Speaker Tip O’Neill, who respected very little of what the president stood for and yet, at the end of the day and with the country in mind, could shake hands and get it done? Why is there never a sense with Mr. Obama that he understands the other guys’ real position?

My best guess at the answer to “why it’s always cliffs with this president” is because he thinks he wins bigger that way, that the closer the country gets to the edge of disaster, the more likely it is his opponents will capitulate, concluding they have to give ground to avoid that disaster. It’s a game of chicken, really. Of course, Obama’s gotten so used to watching the Republicans swerve away in the game of chicken that he may be entirely unprepared for a time that they don’t.

Some might see this as the philosophy of the manufactured crisis. Or at least the unnerving Rahm Emanuel slogan, “never waste a crisis.” Although looking at how the Obama administration tackles these things, perhaps the slogan is better remembered as, “never solve a crisis.”

Conn Carroll looks down the road and sees four more years of this:

The Geithner proposal completely killed any chance House Republican leaders had of convincing their members that Obama was an honest partner for anything — let alone major tax and entitlement reform.

Now we are either going to go over the fiscal cliff, or Republicans will act to preserve the Bush tax rates for the middle class while giving Obama his return to the Clinton tax rates for the highest income earners.

But that is all Obama will get. He’ll get no entitlement reform now. No individual or corporate tax reform either. The rest of the second-term Obama agenda is also DOA. It is going to be all partisan scorched earth all the time, again, for four more years.

Obama will have changed Washington. But for the worse.

Brad Thor assesses the president’s offer in the fiscal-cliff negotiations: “Obama is like an angry spouse who wants everything: house, car, kids, & only scorched earth for other side. Did we have a divorce or an election?”

Well, at least the president looks relaxed:

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md.– President Obama and former President Bill Clinton hit the golf course on Sunday.

Obama is playing his round at Maryland’s Joint Base Andrews and it is the third presidential golf outing here since the Nov. 6 elections, under sunny skies with temperatures around 55 degrees.

Clinton went to bat for the president in the just-ended campaign, delivering an well-received endorsement at the Democratic National Convention in September. Their partnership, which was initially rocky in the early days of the Obama presidency, grew stronger after a September 2011 golf game.

Clinton is also the last Democratic president to strike a mammoth budget deal with Congress. Obama will likely be discussing the looming “fiscal cliff” of tax increases and spending cuts on the links.

Rounding out the presidential foursome are U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic party chairman, who has announced his plans to run again for the governorship of Virginia.

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