Bob Woodward Wrong In Accusing Obama Of Moving The Goal Posts In Sequester Battle

Conservatives have a tendency to latch onto articles which support their viewpoints, ignoring any further information which shows they are wrong. Therefore they have been citing Bob Woodard’s op-ed in The Washington Post which supports their attempts to pin the blame for any damages which occur from the sequester on Obama. For years Bob Woodward has capitalized on his name and avoided the hard work of actually reporting. This leads to him being wrong on many occasions, such as at present, when he ignores virtually all the negotiations surrounding the debt ceiling agreement which led to the sequester. Woodward appears totally oblivious to what Obama has been calling for when he accuses him of “moving the goal posts” in calling for a balanced approach to the deficit (while also admitting that Obama’s position is “reasonable” and that Obama “makes a strong case that those in the top income brackets could and should pay more.”

Brian Buetler responded to the op-ed:

But in this case Woodward is just dead wrong. Obama and Democrats have always insisted that a balanced mix of spending cuts and higher taxes replace sequestration. It’s true that John Boehner wouldn’t agree to include new taxes in the enforcement mechanism itself, and thus that the enforcement mechanism he and Obama settled upon — sequestration — is composed exclusively of spending cuts. But the entire purpose of an enforcement mechanism is to make sure that the enforcement mechanism is never triggered. The key question is what action it was designed to compel. And on that score, the Budget Control Act is unambiguous.

First: “Unless a joint committee bill achieving an amount greater than $1,200,000,000,000 in deficit reduction as provided in section 401(b)(3)(B)(i)(II) of the Budget Control Act of 2011 is enacted by January 15, 2012, the discretionary spending limits listed in section 251(c) shall be revised, and discretionary appropriations and direct spending shall be reduced.”

Key words: “deficit reduction.” Not “spending cuts.” If Republicans wanted to make sure sequestration would be replaced with spending cuts only, that would have been the place to make a stand. Some of them certainly tried. But that’s not what ultimately won the day. Instead the, law tasked the Super Committee with replacing sequestration with a different deficit reduction bill — tax increases or no.

“The goal of the joint committee shall be to reduce the deficit by at least $1,500,000,000,000 over the period of fiscal years 2012 to 2021,” according to the BCA. The bill even provided the House and Senate instructions for advancing a Super Committee bill if it included revenue. This couldn’t be clearer. In the Super Committee’s waning hours, Republicans tried to entice Democrats into a spending-cut heavy agreement by acceding to a small amount of revenue. Democrats balked — the balance was off — but all of that just goes to show that a tax increase has always been a likely element of a replacement bill, and Republicans know it.

David Weigel also responded by showing how Woodard’s claims contradict the facts, including information presented in Woodward’s own book, The Price of Politics. He concluded:

To argue that the White House is “moving the goal posts” when it now asks for revenue in a sequestration replacement, you have to toss out the fact that the White House always wanted revenue in the supercommittee’s sequestration replacement. This isn’t confusing unless reporters make it confusing.

Ezra Klein also argues that Woodward is wrong in suggesting that Obama has moved the goal posts by insisting that any budget deal includes increases in revenue. He also  points out that the deal over the debt ceiling did kick the can down the road until after an important event which would show how voters thought the matter should be settled–the election:

The American people voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes.

In fact, they went even further than that. They also voted for a Senate that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes. And then they voted for a House that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes, though due to the quirks of congressional districts, they didn’t get one.

Here in DC, we can get a bit buried in Beltway minutia. The ongoing blame game over who concocted the sequester is an excellent example. But it’s worth remembering that the goalposts in American politics aren’t set in backroom deals between politicians. They’re set in elections. And in the 2012 election, the American people were very clear on where they wanted the goalposts moved to.

It is theoretically possible that a majority voted for candidates who did not reflect their views. After all, polls blinded to party have often showed that Republican voters actually favor Democratic positions. This wasn’t the case here. A recent Pew Research Center survey shows that most voters do not support the types of spending cuts advocated by Republicans. This is consistent with other recent polls showing that a majority support Democratic positions on the budget and other issues.

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