Obama Complains About his Workload
“They're in one week, they're out one week. And then they're saying, ‘Obama has got to step in. You need to be here.’ I’ve been here. I’ve been doing Afghanistan and bin Laden and the Greek crisis. You stay here. Let’s get it done.”
-- A visibly indignant President Obama talking to reporters about claims that he has shown insufficient leadership on his request to increase the federal government’s $14.3 trillion debt limit.
President Obama told reporters that he found it “amusing” when people say he needs to show more leadership on the fiscal impasse in Washington, but there was little mirth evident in the president on Wednesday.
Obama swiped and swatted at Republicans for intransigence, reprising his previous attack lines on fiscal confrontations, suggesting that Democrats were ready to make sacrifices but Republicans were radical and self-seeking. The president suggested that Republicans were just expressing opposition to tax increases to fire up their political base and get on “cable news.”
That stuff is pretty much expected in Obama’s Washington. The president often calls into question the motives of everyone but himself. Republicans, he claims, are fixated on 2012 while he is intent on governing.
Those Obamaian flourishes get bipartisan eye rolls inside the Beltway because they are so patently political themselves. Everybody in Washington is always thinking about the next election, especially the campaigner in chief.
The president is attending two fundraisers in Philadelphia tonight – the 36th and 37th fundraising events of his presidency. His wife, meanwhile, is hitting a trio of fundraising events while on an official trip to visit the families of Vermont National Guard members.
By comparison, President George W. Bush had held fewer than a half-dozen such events at this point in his first term.
As the president tries to amass another record-breaking campaign war chest, he has been pushing the envelope not just of the time he’s spending hustling cash but the lengths he’s gone to in order to do so.
Obama has come under criticism for using the White House to record a campaign video for a fundraising raffle for donors to win dinner with him and Vice President Biden. Fundraisers have also offered food tastings with the White House chef and access to other trappings of executive power as ways to lure big-dollar donors.
The Clinton scandals of selling access to the people’s house to high-dollar donors had previously squelched that kind of mercantilism, but the huge financial goals set by Team Obama are driving the administration into some riskier behavior.
Newly released White House visitors’ logs show a second Democratic National Committee event was held in the White House this year – even before the now controversial executive briefing given to Wall Street donors in March.
The Obama campaign has been trying to downplay fundraising expectations for the second quarter of the year, which ends today. Anything short of $60 million in combined fundraising for Obama’s campaign and the DNC would be a disappointment given the unprecedented lengths to which Obama has gone to raise money.
But, again, this is not a new thing. Obama has mostly been in campaign mode since taking office but frequently accuses his opponents of being politically motivated instead of being imbued with the national interest. As the election draws nearer, this line will grow increasingly strained, but it is old hat.
The new wrinkle on Wednesday was that Obama expanded the argument to actual hours on the job. He accused Congress of being neglectful of their work by taking vacations while he was busy dealing with killing Usama bin Laden and helping avoid the looming insolvency of the euro.
That was weird.
Obama played golf twice last weekend, is getting ready for a long summer vacation and has been on an increasingly active tour of 2012 swing states to give remarks about green energy, auto bailouts and stimulus spending. These are all normal things for presidents to do, but strange that Obama would cast himself as overworked and Congress as a bunch of goldbrickers.
Aside from sounding whiny, it also lays the president open to criticism for every golf outing, fundraiser, swing-state visit, family getaway and the like that he engages in. He played into the hands of his critics by framing the argument on their grounds.
It will be easy enough for Senators (except for the politically vulnerable ones who are missing out on parades and fundraisers) to stick around next week and wait for word of a deal. It will be hard for Obama to defend his schedule having now held it up as a metric by which one’s national service can be measured.
August 2 Deadline Gets Cloudy
-- Estimated investment holdings of the Federal Reserve, mostly in U.S. Treasury bonds.
Power Play estimates the chances of the federal government defaulting on its debts are somewhere in the same range as the Baltimore Orioles winning the World Series.
The Bipartisan Policy Center, the debt hawk group led by former Clinton OMB Director Alice Rivlin and Republican former New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici, has a new report that shows how August could shape up if the current debt-ceiling impasse persists.
It’s very grim stuff that involves shutting down more than half of government operations and an invitation to lenders to start jacking up their rates on fears of long-term insolvency. But the breakdown also shows that Treasury secretary Tim Geither could pay all the debt obligations and the bills for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits and the military in August before he had to start shutting things down.
They forecast total budgeted costs of $306.7 billion and total income from taxes, etc. at $172.4. That leaves you at 56.2 percent. Debt service eats up $29 billion, so that would leave Geithner about $143.4 billion to spread around for the rest of the month.
If things got really dire, they could always break open the bank down at the Federal Reserve and start leveraging its huge assets to cover obligations. That would be drastic, but less drastic than having the richest nation in the world not pay its creditors because of a political impasse.
Geithner essentially acknowledges this in remarks but pushes his responses on the subject to the larger point that some solution on borrowing is necessary eventually. His argument is that waiting until a shutdown necrosis has begun to overtake the federal government would be reckless and foolish. Yes, he could weave through August, but what then? And what will the fears and reductions in government spending do to September’s tax revenue?
But it is clear that the date for starting that shutdown is fungible and the way in which the shutdown occurs is at the discretion of Geithner and President Obama.
Republicans point to this in an effort to weaken President Obama’s ability to use scare tactics ahead of the Geithner deadline. Obama stuck to the Aug. 2 date in his press conference, but only in a halfhearted way. As the final negotiations begin, watch for the president to emphasize or de-emphasize that date as a deadline depending on how things are going.
If they are close to a deal, you won’t hear much more about August 2. If talks are falling apart, August 2 will loom larger. One of the advantages of being president is that he gets to set the game clock.
The pressure will build on Republicans next week as the administration starts issuing warnings about service disruptions for the elderly and veterans. Republicans know they are coming, and are bracing themselves for the assault.
But it won’t look good for the president if he starts the countdown clock and is seen holding up the deal over a small tax increase. By trying to make Republicans look extreme for refusing to close tiny tax loopholes, he risks making himself look petty in the end. Who would risk Granny’s check over a corporate jet tax?
Perry’s Last, Best Chance to Saddle Up
"The far right would have liked it better if Perry had gone whole hog and done a full Arizona on that policy front. Perry understands the nuance, I think. He said from the start that the Arizona way wouldn't work in Texas."
-- Texas Democratic consultant Harold Cook talking to the Texas Tribune about the way Gov. Rick Perry navigated immigration, among other issues, in a just-completed special session of the state’s legislature.
The latest FOX News poll on Republican presidential prospects will shake up the race.
While former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stays out in front with 19 percent, Texas Gov. Rick Perry made his debut with 13 percent, 2 points ahead of Michele Bachmann and far above the rest of the pack.
The poll had bad news for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty who was tied for last place at 3 percent with marginal candidates Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman. If Pawlenty doesn’t show viable fundraising for the second quarter -- $3 million to $5 million– he may have reached the end of the trail.
But for Perry, the news is all good.
Perry’s biggest advantage may be that he’s not actually running yet. In the same way that Fred Thompson soared in 2008 GOP surveys, Perry benefits from not actually having to be part of the rough and tumble of campaign. Perry remains an empty vessel into which dissatisfied conservatives can pour their hopes.
If Perry decides to run, he may receive yet another bump and be in a two-way race with Romney, or he may come crashing down.
But the poll certainly shows that even with Bachmann quickly consolidating support on the right of the GOP, the Texas governor has a natural base inside the Republican party. The interest is there and growing. If Perry doesn’t do what Thompson did, basically tantalize potential supporters for too long and thereby push them into the arms of other contenders, he may be the only candidate other than Romney with a path to the nomination.
As for timing, Perry just wrapped up the special session of the Texas Legislature, his self-imposed deadline for starting his official mulling process. And there, the news is good too.
Democrats tried to bedevil Perry on spending, immigration and invasive pat downs by airport screeners, and Perry managed to slide through. He got a fiscal win but little blame from Republicans for the failure of a Perry-sponsored measure forbidding sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants and one that would bar groping by TSA agents.
The state GOP is thrilled that Perry blocked any tax increases to cover the state budget shortfall and won passage of a bill requiring sonograms prior to abortions.
Democrats may be calling him a “Teflon” governor, but Perry is still walking out a winner.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“On Libya, he said himself promises made, promises kept. He is talking exclusively about process. He says ‘I promise no boots on the ground, no boots on the ground. I promised America would lead at the beginning and then withdrawal and let others lead. I kept to that promise.’
I would think that when you evaluate the success of a war, it would be has it advanced American national interest in safety and security? It's not in terms has it vindicated a president's prior words. It's an odd standard. Obama has done this on Afghanistan as well. In the speech he gave, he said ‘I promised as a candidate I would turn resources to Afghanistan. I have done that. Now I promised I'd start withdrawals in July of this year and I'm starting that.’ This is a remarkable way to evaluate a war. It's extremely self-preferential. Who cares if it fulfills a promise? Is it achieving the goal?”