Politics MMSR: Sequester Wars or Sequester Trek?
As always, let’s pull a CNN and get to the trivial stuff before we get into real news and politics. The Internet was abuzz last week when President Obama suggested he couldn’t use a “jedi mind meld” to make Republicans “do what’s right” concerning the sequester cuts. Of course that set the Internet talking more than the actual sequester did, because the Internet is obviously first and foremost nerd territory. Obama mixing up the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises with that statement was an “unpardonable sin” that demanded lots of fluff commentary from the fluff-loving media. Ed Schultz even had George Takei on to talk about it on The Ed Show Friday.
No word on whether Ed orgasmed when Takei compared Republicans to Klingons. The White House, not ones to neglect a softball, fluff topic to hopefully distract Americans from noticing that Obama is actually the head of our dysfunctional government, promptly urged people on Twitter to go to wh.gov/jedimindmeld to get more information on why Republicans suck and Obama is the man with the plan.
So yes, the sequester has arrived, and as predicted, Americans reacted with a big yawn. Obama had his meeting/photo-op with Congressional leaders on Friday in the usual effort to say: “Well, we tried to avert this.”
Except Obama never really tried to avert the sequester, hitting the campaign trail to blast Republicans instead of negotiating with them. I think Obama miscalculated a little on this one. Republicans, who just conceded a tax hike on those making $400,000 or more not two months ago, were never going to bend and give Obama another tax hike so soon after the last one. And in the court of public opinion, Congress’ approval rating is already very low, while Obama’s isn’t terrible.
Republicans in the House answer only to their districts, so they really don’t care if their already low national polling falls some more–they can still win re-election by holding firm against taxes in most cases. Meanwhile Obama has more to lose, although he doesn’t have to face re-election. His approval rating has already trickled down a couple of points. That may or may not signify a trend, but I don’t think the American people are going to continue to give Obama a pass for portraying himself as a helpless victim at the whim of the minority party in government, nor Republicans as irrationally protecting the rich after just agreeing to a tax hike on them. They want compromise and they want results, and Obama is not producing that.
Still, the sequester represents only the tip of how bad things might get. The government might shut down later this month if Republicans and Democrats don’t come to an agreement. That would be much more serious a blow to our economy than the clumsy, but still only marginal sequester cuts. There does seem to be a greater sense of urgency to come to an agreement to avoid a shutdown than the sequester, and hopefully the Friday meeting with Obama produced a rough blueprint to do so.
The Sunday talk shows were predictable but interesting. Gene Spurling, the President’s top economic adviser, was a busy man making the rounds. On CNN’s State of Union he said: “Republicans say they’re for defense–this (sequester) cuts defense deeply. They say they’re for border security–the cuts border security deeply. They say they’re for long-term entitlement reform–this sequester doesn’t do anything to help long-term entitlement reform.”
On Meet the Press Spurling sounded a similar note, and urged Republicans to come together with the President and reach a compromise. He said he hoped as Republicans start to see the pain of the sequester in their own districts, they would decide to come to the table.
The big guns of the GOP countered that although the sequester was not ideal, it was probably the only way they’d get any kind of even somewhat meaningful spending cuts out of Obama. Mitch McConnell on State of the Union talked about the “spending addiction” we have in Washington. John Boehner on Meet the Press said the “President and Senate Democrats have done nothing to pass a plan to avert this and deal honestly with the spending problem the country has.”
A compromise may be reached, but it doesn’t seem like it will come very soon.
The other big political story out there (other than Dennis Rodman visiting North Korea) were that the Romneys ended their media silence and gave an interview to Fox News. Nothing earth-shattering, but they have to come to grips now as just a footnote in the annals of history. If you’re interested, take a listen below.