As the super-committee implodes, the rush is on to assign blame. At this point, many Republicans and media figures want to point the finger at President Obama.
Indeed, the right seems quite invested in this line of attack, as if a memo went out to Republicans and allied pundits, encouraging them to all say the same thing at the same time. Judd Gregg and Robert Samuelson make the same lazy argument in print, and both pretend to have no knowledge of the massive debt-reduction plans Obama offered the GOP, which the conservative party rejected.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) even sketched out a crude conspiracy theory, telling ABC yesterday that the White House deliberately ensured the super-committee’s failure so the president could run against a “do-nothing Congress.”
Then there was Mitt Romney.
With the so-called supercommittee at an impasse ahead of Wednesday’s deadline, Mr. Romney blamed the president for the apparent failure of the bipartisan panel…. “He hasn’t had any role,” Mr. Romney told roughly 200 supporters outside the city hall building in Nashua…. “He’s done nothing.”
Let’s count the ways in which this fails to make any sense whatsoever.
First, President Obama offered Republicans multiple debt-reduction plans, which called for concessions from both sides. GOP lawmakers rejected every offer. That’s not an example of the president “doing nothing”; it’s an example of the opposite.
Second, Obama can’t force Republicans to negotiate in good faith and he can’t compel the GOP to accept revenues the party refused to even consider. It’s not as if Republicans on the super-committee would somehow become more responsible because the president asked them to stop acting like children. Indeed, he’s asked that before, and it’s never worked.
And third, Obama kept his distance and allowed members of the debt panel to work on a deal on their own because Republicans asked the president to stay away.
[A]nother committee member, Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, said on “Meet the Press” that President Obama and White House budget officials “were asked to be hands off.”
“The Republicans said, ‘Don’t let Obama come into this, because if he does, it will make it political,’ ” Mr. Kerry said, adding, “They’ve been intimately involved, but carefully so that they didn’t politicize it. I think they did the right thing.”
Republicans can’t urge Obama to keep his distance, and then blame him when he keeps his distance.
Members of this committee were given a task: strike a deal. Democrats were willing to meet Republicans more than half way; Republicans weren’t willing to compromise. It’s only natural to wonder who’s to blame when there’s a breakdown like this, but holding the White House responsible is deeply foolish.