Thursday, June 30, 2011

Our post-partisan president's partisan demagoguery

The President's press conference yesterday doesn't seem to have been a success. Six times he used a talking point about ending a tax break for corporate jets. The Bloomberg fact checkers were having none of that.
President Barack Obama’s proposal to end a tax break for corporate jet owners, a repeated refrain in his news conference yesterday, would achieve less than one-tenth of 1 percent of his target for reducing the federal deficit.

Changing the provision would put $3 billion into the Treasury over a decade, said two congressional aides familiar with the proposal. Democrats want to require companies that use jets for business purposes to write off the cost over seven years, instead of five years allowed under current law, said a congressional aide and a White House aide. Airplanes used for charter or commercial flights already must be depreciated over seven years.

Obama mentioned the corporate jet break six times, criticizing Republicans’ unwillingness to include tax increases in legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling. Republicans are pressing for spending cuts in the measure, which must be passed before Aug. 2, when the Treasury Department projects the U.S. will no longer be able to meet its debt obligations.

“It would be hard for the Republicans to stand there and say that the tax break for corporate jets is sufficiently important that we’re not willing to come to the table and get a deal done,” Obama said during the White House news conference.

It would take much more than eliminating a break for corporate jets to complete the deal. The $3 billion proposal would generate 0.075 percent of the $4 trillion in deficit reduction that Obama is seeking through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.
And of course, the President's repetition of his talking point on the corporate jet tax break, as Charlie Spiering reminds us, ignored the fact that this was a benefit passed by the Democrats and signed by Obama in 2009 as part of the stimulus.

Jim Geraghty notes that Obama is usually very poor at press conferences. He doesn't seem to be able to think fast on his feet.
Has Obama ever given a bravura performance at a press conference? No wonder he goes three months or so without doing them.

Today he mentioned a tax break for corporate jets six times. He didn’t mention that he signed legislation preserving the tax code provision into law, or that the grand total of the savings of ending that tax break would be about $3 billion over ten years.

The man who flies anywhere he wants, anytime, cost-free, complained at great length that other people’s private jets are insufficiently taxed. Tomorrow, Obama will fly on Air Force One to Philadelphia, Pa., to attend two DNC fundraisers, where he will probably again denounce the current tax rates on corporate jets, without anyone remarking on the irony.

What I think this reveals is that Barack Obama is not used to being challenged. Most of us have scoffed at his predictable straw men, his off-the-cuff references to tonsil-stealing doctors, his exhausted, “some on the right say we should take this extreme path, some on the left take this extreme path, but I choose this sensible path in the middle” framing of every issue.
He then goes on to highlight the weak answers that Obama gave yesterday. Some examples:
# Occasionally Obama’s gaffes would seem strangely honest, like when he said, “I’ll keep on giving you the same answer until I give you a different one,” on gay marriage, or “I don’t even have to get to the Constitutional question,” rather bluntly acknowledging he was ignoring Chuck Todd’s actual question on the War Powers Act.
# The President constantly infuriated by the perception that he hates the private sector responded to a question, “The business community always complains about regulations.” Unlike unions, trial lawyers, public sector employees, apparently.
# Asked about the ATF “Fast and Furious” operation, Obama said that Attorney General Eric Holder made very clear that he would have opposed the operation… you know, the one that occurred on his watch.
The President even went so far to compare the GOP's efforts on the debt reduction to his daughters' work ethic.
Then, as if his earlier scoldings weren’t enough, Obama suggested that his daughters, Malia and Sasha, displayed a better work ethic toward their school assignments than the GOP has toward the debt ceiling.

“They’re not pulling all-nighters,” he said. “They’re 13 and 10. Congress can do the same thing. If you know you’ve got to do something, just do it.”
I thought that we weren't supposed to talk about the President's children and keep them out of politics.

But more importantly, this is the guy who proposed a budget that was unanimously voted down by the Senate. Then he gave a speech pretending to make tough choices on the budget but never presented any actual numbers. The CBO Director had to tell Congress that they don't estimate speeches to explain why there is no analysis of the President's supposed second budget proposal.

And this cut at Congress pulling all-nighters from the President who signed stimulus bills that were rushed through without proper procedure and without anyone having time to read what was in them. He signed the Obamacare bill that was also pushed through without proper examination so, as Pelosi said, we had to pass it to find what was in it. And we've been finding problems in the bill ever since. Perhaps he should have told Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid about his daughters' work ethic.

Then he puffs out his chest
to say that he's really been a leader on the debt talks.
And I’ve got to say, I’m very amused when I start hearing comments about, well, the President needs to show more leadership on this. Let me tell you something. Right after we finished dealing with the government shutdown, averting a government shutdown, I called the leaders here together. I said we’ve got to get done — get this done. I put Vice President Biden in charge of a process — that, by the way, has made real progress — but these guys have met, worked through all of these issues. I met with every single caucus for an hour to an hour and a half each — Republican senators, Democratic senators; Republican House, Democratic House. I’ve met with the leaders multiple times. At a certain point, they need to do their job.
I guess in Obama's mind, holding meetings is the same thing as leadership. He doesn't need to put forth his own proposals, just hold meetings and then demagogue the GOP. Like this comment.
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.
This from a guy who has a free jet to take him all over the country for fund-raisers and political appearances. He's the leader of a party that hasn't put forth a budget proposal in over 700 days. So don't tell us how the problem is the GOP.

The President's press conference was so bad yesterday that ABC's Mark Halperin, no right-winger, said what he really thought of Obama's performance and then had to apologize profusely for what he said.