Power Play

Obama Takes a Walk in the Clouds

“He’s focused on the economy. He’s not focused on pretend scandals.”

-- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today on MSNBC

President Obama thinks top earners should pay more in taxes and that the proceeds should be used for domestic spending. He thought so in 2005. He thinks so today.

And what of it?

Call it “stimulus,” “investing in the middle class,” “nation building here at home,” “green jobs” or anything you like, this is core Obamanomics. And while we ought to note that the president has been consistent since his days as a candidate for the United States Senate and has long expressed a belief that higher taxes and higher spending are needed to make a more sustainable domestic economy, this is neither new nor in any way likely to occur.

The president has gotten all the new taxes and domestic spending he’s going to get. And with the first tax rate increase in two decades and the first new federal entitlement program in four decades, he can be proud that he brought much of his vision to life against difficult odds.

But with a brutal midterm cycle shaping up for his party, Obamanomics is a non-starter until at least 2015. Good luck getting vulnerable Senate Democrats to go for another tax increase. With the president’s job approval ratings on the slide – dipping under 45 percent in the Real Clear Politics Average today with the help of a sour showing in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey – Democrats are not going to be much in the mood to take up an advanced course in the president’s economics.

The president’s speech was getting pre-panned today from the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank and others who suggest that the president risks the appearance that “just six months into his second term, Obama is fresh out of ideas.”

This suggests that Obama’s address and the others planned in the same series are missing one of their primary objectives: Shaming Millbank and others in the Washington press corps into not covering what White House Press Secretary Jay Carney calls “phony scandals.” Carney has explained what reporters ought not to cover, like White House visits by figures in the IRS scandal. Now the president is telling reporters what they should cover: his own economic philosophy.


This is fine, as far as it goes. When everything else seems to be going wrong, every president wants to talk about something else. At difficult times in the last presidency, we heard about many other things, including combating AIDS in Africa and launching manned missions to Mars. So what if the president’s plan for higher taxes and spending stands about as much of a chance as George W. Bush’s vision of starting a lunar launch pad for space exploration by 2020? When all else fails, presidents can always talk about their dreams.

The difference in this case is that Team Obama is unaccustomed to being ignored and seems to be growing increasingly frustrated with the press that has grown weary of Obama’s interstellar dreams and more interested in a government that is in poor shape and looming conflicts over debt, spending and Obama’s 2010 health law. What’s tough is that for lame duck presidents, the power to threaten or cajole reporters declines with each passing day. Everybody wanted the first sit-down interview with President Obama. No one will worry too much about who gets the last one. Steve Kroft may already have it penciled in.

What is consequential in the president’s speeches is how they relate to the coming negotiations with Congress over the debt ceiling, next year’s budget and Obamacare. These remarks represent the president’s opening bid: more borrowing and spending now and an unconditional increase in the debt limit to finance it. His health law is to be inviolate (except for when he changes it). And deficit reductions will be achieved as the “investment” of today is realized in years to come and through marginal changes to existing entitlement programs.

That’s as much of an empty demand as Republicans who want to delay Obama’s health law for a year in exchange for a debt hike. Barack Obama would certainly allow a government shutdown before he would see the undoing of his own signature law.

What should be alarming is that both sides are starting so far apart and the president is taking so long to articulate an impossibility.

And Now, A Word From Charles

“[A taxpayer bailout for Detroit] will be a sleight of hand.  It will be how much can we transfer indirectly in a way that will not look like a bailout.”

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

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET  at  http:live.foxnews.com.


Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.