Stormy Skies for Obama Vacation; Bushies for Perry?

Obama Seeks to Separate Tax and Jobs Debates

“We're talking about modest adjustments -- paring back programs that don't work. On the back of an envelope, I can show you what it would take.”

-- President Obama in an interview with CBS news discussing the entitlement reform he will propose in his September economic plan.

President Obama leaves today for what must be the least-anticipated vacation in presidential history.

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Obama, always sensitive to media criticism, is acting very anxious about his Martha’s Vineyard family retreat. One can see why. Obama is taking a fantasy preppy getaway in New England as the nation’s economy reels and his approval ratings plummet (his rating on handling of the economy is now at 26 percent, according to Gallup).

Press types always get worked up about presidential vacations – it’s an easy story for the summer doldrums – but with the nation in extremis and the central rap on the president being a lack of forceful leadership and engagement, they actually are onto something this year. Power Play would normally advise presidents to blow raspberries at the press corps and get away anyway, but this looks like a good time to reconsider.

But Obama didn’t want to give in and scrap his trip – to be pushed around by the press corps and the Republicans. Call it defiant vacationing. Bill Clinton may have pandered to the people and scratched his 1995 romp with the swells in the Atlantic surf for a march through Yellowstone, but not Obama.

To minimize the political damage from his trip to Kerryland, Obama went out on a three-day campaign swing to bracket the Republicans rip roaring in Iowa and cast blame on the House for the sorry state of the economy. He promised that he would come back from the Vineyard with a plan to rescue the economy.

This did not go as intended. Rather than casting the image of a president who was no longer leading from behind, it raised a series of unfortunate questions from friends and foes alike: Why wait? What took you so long? Is this a plan or politics?

Having failed with the idea of a cliffhanger vacation in which the world would wait for Obama’s return with the new economic mojo, the president and his staff have already started stepping on his own lines by leaking out the contours of the proposal. This will make the “major” speech a minor event and allow the proposals to be picked apart endlessly between now and the big reveal.

The broad outline is this: Obama will propose one plan to reduce long-term deficits through tax increases and “modest adjustments” to entitlement programs. The president will propose taking those anticipated decreases to the rate of future debt increases to finance his third stimulus package (there was the $800 billion Magilla in February 2009 and then the $26 billion August 2010 aid package to state and local government workers).

The details leaked so far include:

A third state bailout package aimed at protecting public-sector jobs

Public works projects fixing up old roads and rails

Modifying unemployment benefits to work as a subsidy for companies that hire those out of work.

Extending and expanding the existing reductions to the federal payroll tax

Streamlining the patent application process

The passage of trade pacts with foreign nations

By splitting the plan into future savings in exchange for current spending, the president means to protect his long-sought tax increases. Republicans will push had for a tax simplification that closes loopholes but uses that money to bring down rates and spur growth in a revenue-neutral fashion. The president wants that income preserved to finance more demand-side stimulus now.

Regular readers will recognize this as a steroidal version of a J. Wellington Wimpy – I would gladly give you debt reduction on Tuesday for new spending today.

The president will want the debt commission to focus on the debt alone. Republicans will want the discussion about taxes to include economic growth.

Obama promises to ladle on specifics when he returns from his trip, and does so with a warning to John Boehner. Obama says his plan will essentially reflect the deal he and Boehner were working on when debt-limit negations went kablooey. This will be a way for Obama to try to undercut Boehner’s clout in his caucus, leaving to Boehner to dispute or deny details of a plan that will cause fiscal conservatives to roar with indignation. (Of course, Obama own dispirited base won’t like it much either.)

Assuming Obama does have a pile of specifics to defend heading into three months of brutal fall budgetary battles – first the looming expiration of the temporary spending plan passed in the spring on Sept. 30 and then the findings of the super committee after Thanksgiving – he may come to yearn for these dog day doldrums.

Bushies Not United in Perry Scorn

"Gov. Bush was asked a question about Rep. Ryan. He admires Rep. Ryan and said so. To construe his comment to be about the lineup of GOP candidates is inaccurate. He has spoken positively about the GOP field of candidates. If asked about Gov. Perry, he would speak well of him also. Perry has done a great job as Governor of Texas."

-- Jaryn Emhof, spokesperson to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, pushing back on a St. Petersburg Times blog post that suggested Bush’s encouragement of Paul Ryan’s candidacy showed dissatisfaction with Rick Perry.

Howard Dean has declared that the Bush political machine will destroy new Republican frontrunner Rick Perry long before Democrats need to worry about him, and the gathering conventional wisdom in Washington is that he’s right.

The sharp criticism for Perry’s remarks about treating Federal Reserve Chairman “ugly” if he were to engage in another round of stimulus cash conjuring ahead of the 2012 election from George W. Bush loyalists Karl Rove and Tony Fratto reminded political reporters what they had long known – Bushworld and Perry people are not on good terms.

The best evidence of that came in 2010 when Rove aided Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in her unusual primary challenge to Perry. Hutchison’s failed bid busted Texas Republican politics wide open as GOPers scrambled to pick sides or run for cover and proved the level of animosity between some on Team Bush and the operation around Perry, now governor for a decade.

That friction has been transported to the national level as Americans discover that while Bush and Perry may sound the same, they are very different people. One is Andover, the other is Paint Creek Rural School. One was an fighter jock in the reserves, the other flew cargo planes in the career military. One is Republican nobility the other is a plains Democrat turned populist Republican.

On policy they differ too. Where Bush was a nuanced “compassionate” conservative, Perry is a blunter instrument with down-the-line conservative views.

But the contrast that matters now isn’t between Bush and Perry, but between Perry and Romney. As the race rapidly winnows to a two-man slugfest, the political professionals, big donors and activists who helped elect Bush twice face the question of Mitt versus Rick.

A leading indicator of how conservatives from Bush World will fall is Ray Sullivan, who ended up as Perry’s gubernatorial chief of staff after his rapid rise through the Bush ranks, including stints working for Rove and Hutchison. Sullivan is leaving his official post to serve as a senior adviser and message man to Perry’s presidential campaign.

Bush campaign operations honcho Sal Purpura has signed on as Perry’s treasurer and there are rumors of other notable crossovers to come.

One place to keep a close eye is on those who either endorsed Perry against Hutchison or stayed silent on the race. Bush confidante and former Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Bush campaign manager and FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh both backed Perry and will be ones to watch. Another potential prize for Perry would be Karen Hughes, the communications guru who helped package Bush’s successful message. She’s stayed out of the fray so far, and would be a key signing for the Perry Camp.

“This isn’t about old rivalries, this is about making the right choice at a critical moment for this country. Governor Perry is the antidote to Obama fatigue,” one longtime Bush loyalist told Power Play. “There are many of us who look forward to helping him make that case.”

Power Play predicts that if Perry hangs tough on the trail, more will follow.

And Now, A Word From Charles

“Is this another speech in the tradition of the April 13 speech or a plan? If is it a plan, put it on paper and show us the numbers. That's been the problem with the president. He has had all the leaks. He says ‘I'm prepared to take hard choices. I am willing to discuss entitlements.’ Discuss and prepare means nothing. Show us the numbers.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

 

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace."  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.