The PJ Tatler

Washington Post Goes to Great Lengths to Exonerate Obama from His Own Bad Idea

Sequestration, the big spending cuts that would slash the military among other government spending, was the Obama White House’s idea back in 2011. Because he has yet to take the nation’s spending problem seriously, as evidenced by his failure to produce budgets and his insistence that entitlement spending must remain essentially untouched, he and the Congress are back where they’ve been for what seems like an eternity now, haggling over the debt ceiling and over taxes and spending. It’s the mind-numbing argument that just won’t go away.

Today, the president sought a delay in the debt ceiling and the sequester cuts, citing the latter as being dangerous to the economy. Which may be true, since the economy did contract last quarter and we may be headed for recession. It’s certainly true that the cuts are dangerous to the military. His own departing SecDef said as much. It’s also true that the tax hikes Obama wants, after getting tax hikes just a month ago, are dangerous to the economy. But he’s focused on the cuts. He does not want to cut his power base, which is built to a great extent on entitlement spending.

Anyway, sequestration was his White House’s idea. Congress went along with it as part of that 2011 spending deal.

Watch the Washington Post play the part of Beltway sophists to argue that an idea that came from Obama’s own White House really isn’t his responsibility.

[I]n the third presidential debate in late October, Mitt Romney also tried to argue that the sequester was the president’s doing. “I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars, which is a combination of the budget cuts the president has, as well as the sequestration cuts,” Romney said. “That, in my view, is making — is making our future less certain and less secure.”

Obama responded: “First of all, the sequester is not something that I’ve proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.”

So who is right?

Well, according to our Washington Post colleague Bob Woodward, the idea did in fact originate in the White House.

A fair analysis would conclude, solely from that paragraph above, that Romney didn’t “try to argue” anything, he stated a fact. Further, that when Obama said that Congress proposed sequestration, he was not telling the truth, either out of error or dishonesty. But that’s not where the Post goes.

Woodward’s book about the 2011 debt ceiling crisis says clearly that the idea originated inside the White House, and Woodward later said that Obama’s assertion that the idea was proposed by Congress was “not correct” and that “it’s refuted by the people who work for him.”

The Post’s fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, awarded Obama four Pinocchios for his claim — a rating that denotes “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.”

Here comes the Post’s case for the defense. We’ve left journalism and crossed into polemics.

But even if we assume that the idea did originate in the White House, we need to remember one more thing: The debt ceiling agreement that contained the sequestration cuts got significantly more Republican support than Democratic support.

In fact, 174 of 240 House Republicans voted for it, while just half of House Democrats joined them (95 out of 190 votes). In the Senate, Democrats carried the vote, providing 45 of the 74 “yes” votes, but Senate Republicans also supported it by a 28-19 margin.

So in total, more than 70 percent of congressional Republicans voted for the deal that included the sequester, while 58 percent of Democrats voted for it.

So, majorities in both parties ended up supporting it as part of the overall deal. But it came from the Obama White House. Two of the three sections of government (one branch, the executive, plus the Senate) were controlled by the Democrats at the time. When Obama says that it didn’t come from the White House, he is not telling the truth. When he said today that it’s dangerous for the economy, he is denouncing his own idea.

Those are pretty basic facts that don’t warrant much analysis. Other than, maybe, analyzing when he decided that his own idea would be bad for the economy, and what led him to that conclusion.