By Carole on Sep 10, 2011
First, President Barack Obama tried to characterize his political opposition as people more concerned with politics than country. Neither a new strategy nor one that hasn't worked before for other desperate candidates, but then he made the mistake of believing his own lies. The president's speech on Thursday night was tailored to bait the kind of politicians he claimed House Republicans are. But since they're not, Mr. Obama is left having to actually participate in solving the country's problems instead of engaging in the kind of negative political campaigning he prefers.
Throughout several recent and highly publicized debates in Congress, Mr. Obama and the Democrats have pushed for more government spending, higher government borrowing authority and hundreds of new government regulations. They firmly believe that that is the best way to confront the nation's economic challenges. Meanwhile, Republicans believe just as firmly that the federal government must learn to live within its means and keep regulations to a minimum in order to foster job growth and a stronger economy.
While Republicans have argued against the Democrats' positions by citing the failure of over spending, over borrowing and over regulating in the recent past; Democrats, including the president, have attacked the Republicans' fiscally responsible positions with the baseless accusation that they put politics ahead of country. Again not a new strategy, but President Obama has made the critical mistake of taking it too far and overplaying his hand.
Early in his highly anticipated address to Congress, the president said of his American Jobs Act, "There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by both Democrats and Republicans - including many who sit here tonight. And everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything."
It took just moments for the Associated Press to expose the blatant falsehoods in the speech, but it didn't elicit the desired response from its intended targets.
Certainly the speech was written with the expectation that congressional Republicans would immediately attack the president's ideas. That would allow the Campaigner-In-Chief to play the role of reasonable problem solver while the opposition appeared to be preventing any chance of the problem being solved. Not only would this allow Candidate Obama to score political points, he would get the additional benefit of not being responsible for any potential folly or failure of his plan because those obstructionist Republicans wouldn't even consider its implementation.
Imagine the administration's surprise when Republicans decided not to give the instantaneous and negative response they expected. Imagine the administration's disappointment when, the day after the speech, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) sent an exceedingly polite letter to the president asking that he send any bills containing his jobs plans to the Congressional Budget Office so that their costs can be evaluated. Included in the letter was the sure-to-infuriate line that "It is our desire to work together to find common ground between your ideas and ours."
Perhaps Congressional Republicans believe there really is common ground between the two ideological sides. Perhaps they believe that a CBO evaluation of the president's plan will make the passage of the more fiscally irresponsible components a moot point. Perhaps they are hoping that their support of the truly deficit neutral components will lead to the inclusion of some of their own ideas. Perhaps they are simply reasonable enough individuals to wait for the actual plan before offering an opinion on yet another inconsequential speech.
But regardless of what Congressional Republicans may do in the future regarding the American Jobs Act, what they did not do was take the president's bait. They did not choose to participate in the kind of political gamesmanship that Mr. Obama so often chooses over doing his job. They did not allow the economic suffering of Americans to be used by a president who has vowed to campaign against the GOP if the party balks at passing his jobs bill.
Instead, Congressional Republicans respectfully waited as President Obama used them and the House Chamber as props for his nationally televised, free of charge, primetime campaign ad. And they are still waiting; ready and willing to work with him and Congressional Democrats on his actual plan whenever he decides to provide it.
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