Though he was hardly the only one, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I) seemed eager to blame President Obama for congressional Republicans scuttling a super-committee deal this week. Bloomberg, whose idea of leadership is destroying an activist library in the middle of the night while keeping journalists at bay, lectured the president, saying it was up to him to “bring people together and to provide leadership in difficult situations.”
I’ve seen a few compelling responses to this very odd line of thinking, but I’m partial towards Jon Chait’s piece.
The notion that Obama’s “leadership” could have persuaded Republicans to accept a tax increase seems strange. Republicans, I have noticed, tend not to like Obama very much. His endorsement does not carry a great deal of weight with them. That was why the administration stayed in the background when Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson developed their deficit plan.
When deficit scolds complained that he failed to embrace them openly, Obama tried a different tack when the next bipartisan deficit commission came around. That was the Senate’s “Gang of Six.” Obama decided to openly tout the plan. Did that work? No, it did not. A Republican aide, probably accurately, blamed Obama’s endorsement for his kiss of death. (“The President killed any chance of its success by 1) embracing it. 2) hailing the fact that it increases taxes. 3) Saying it mirrors his own plan.”)
Okay, so if Obama openly endorses a bipartisan plan, he’s killing it. And if he keeps his distance, he’s also killing it. What if he tries to directly negotiate a deficit reduction plan behind closes doors? Well, Obama did that, too, this last summer. Republicans opposed it as well.
The easy response to the “Why didn’t Obama try to intervene with the super-committee?” question is to note that Republican members specifically pleaded with the president to keep his distance. It’s a point, to her credit, Ruth Marcus highlighted today.
But really, that’s barely scratching the surface. Just once I’d like to hear one of these wise presidential critics explain what, exactly, Obama was supposed to do. Republicans weren’t willing to compromise. They’ve admitted as much. GOP members of the panel made demands that no sensible person could possibly consider reasonable, and ultimately, weren’t intended to work towards a resolution anyway.
Does Mike Bloomberg, or anyone else, think Republicans were going to be responsible because the president — the chief executive they loathe with a passion, and whose presidency they seem so desperate to destroy, that they’ll sabotage the nation’s interests — asked them to? Is there any scenario in which GOP officials were going to accept new tax revenue after the president asked really nicely?
The answer, I hope, is obvious, making this “blame Obama for the super-committee” nonsense terribly silly, even by the standards of the punditocracy.