Thursday, March 03, 2011

Still Pretending He’s the Cavalry

From today’s Wonkbook summary, by the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein:

With the stopgap funding bill safely through Congress and the federal government given a two-week reprieve, the White House has decided to get in the game more directly: They've invited congressional leaders to sit down with Vice President Joe Biden, Chief of Staff William Daley, and budget director Jack Lew to hammer out a deal.

You could imagine a great beer commercial coming out of this: The wonks and legislators are deadlocked until someone brings in an ice-cold case of Miller Lite. Suddenly, it's all backslapping and "of course revenue should be on the table" and "you're right that government needs to spend less" and "sorry about that whole Planned Parenthood thing." And I haven't even mentioned the disco ball.

But can you imagine a great budget deal coming out of this? This is the same play the White House ran to resolve the tax debate: they waited till the last minute, when inaction was about to force unwelcome consequences, and then they gathered the players in a room with Tim Geithner and Jack Lew and had Joe Biden act as shuttle envoy to Mitch McConnell. Despite the skepticism of people like, well, me, it worked. Maybe it'll work again. But the downside here, much like the downside there, is that the White House has taken ownership over the process, and they will get much of the credit or much of th blame for whether it works and what it produces.

This is the same thing President Comfortable Shoes has done since Day One: wait until a situation hits crisis mode, then come in late, thus taking credit for what results. Health insurance reform, financial overhaul, taxes, and now this.

It’s not leadership’ it’s opportunism. Granted, he doesn’t have a lot of political capital to spend right now, having pissed much of it away doing what was described in the previous paragraph. Still, he thinks this is the way to go, consequences to the 99.9% of people who just want to get along with their lives be damned.

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