Obama derangement syndrome has become rather tedious. It’s not only the totally insane ones who call Obama a Socialist or who claim he was not born in the Untied States. Conservative pundits and bloggers endlessly complain about the deficit, despite the fact that it was Republicans who ran it up and it is now shrinking, with Obama being the most fiscally conservative president since Eisenhower. They regularly write about Obama taking an inordinate amount of time off on vacation even though he has taken far less days off than George Bush and many of his other predecessors. Despite spending all his time on vacation, if you listen to conservatives, Obama has also taken on dictatorial powers, ignoring attempts at Republican power-grabs under the theory of the unitary president. Now a conservative columnist is attacking Obama for following the law.
Bob Woodward, who has become a second-rate conservative writer resting on his laurels from the Watergate years, has joined most of the conservative movement in totally ignoring the facts over the recent budget battles. He has a really odd attack on Obama today (which conservative bloggers are lapping up):
The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward ripped into President Barack Obama on “Morning Joe” today, saying he’s exhibiting a “kind of madness I haven’t seen in a long time” for a decision not to deploy an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf because of budget concerns.
“Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting there and saying, ‘Oh, by the way, I can’t do this because of some budget document?'” Woodward said.
“Or George W. Bush saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to invade Iraq because I can’t get the aircraft carriers I need?'” Or even Bill Clinton saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to attack Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters,’ … because of some budget document?”
The Defense Department said in early February that it would not deploy the U.S.S. Harry Truman to the Persian Gulf, citing budget concerns relating to the looming cuts known as the sequester.
“Under the Constitution, the President is commander-in-chief and employs the force. And so we now have the President going out because of this piece of paper and this agreement. ‘I can’t do what I need to do to protect the country,'” Woodward said.
If it was a matter of protecting the country from an imminent attack it would be a different matter. In such a case we would expect Obama to do what needs to be done (and face the inevitable conservative attacks for assuming more dictatorial powers). Sending one additional carrier to the Persian Gulf is more of an elective matter and the president is subject to obeying the law on such spending. Brian Buetler has an excellent response:
The obscure type of budget document Woodward’s referring to is called a duly enacted law — passed by Congress, signed by the President — and the only ways around it are for Congress to change it (Obama’s trip to Virginia on Tuesday was all about pushing Congress to do that) or for Obama to break it. Sequestration is bad policy, but not remotely unconstitutional, and if Obama decided to ignore it and just spend money as if the law didn’t exist the howls of outrage we’d hear from Woodward and others would be entirely justified.
David Ignatius doesn’t go quite as far as calling Obama’s decision to obey the law insane, but his Wednesday Washington Post column typifies the “Obama’s right on the merits, but this is somehow all his fault too” genre. In an overstretched metaphor he compares the U.S. political system to a drunk driver and Obama to a sober passenger who’s too meek to comandeer the wheel.
“I’m no fan of the way President Obama has handled the fiscal crisis,” Ignatius declares. “As I’ve written often, he needs to provide the presidential leadership that guides Congress and the country toward fiscal stability. In my analogy, he should take the steering wheel firmly in hand and drive the car toward the destination where most maps show we need to be heading: namely, a balanced program of cuts in Social Security and Medicare and modest increases in revenue.”
As it happens, that’s the precise mix of policies President Obama has been offering House Republicans for nearly two years.
The counter-argument against Obama, which we don’t hear in the mainstream media, is over whether it is really the right thing to cut Social Security and Medicare. Political discourse has centered far too much around cutting spending as if this is the only option. Social Security and Medicare are popular and beneficial programs which most voters do not want to cut. This country needs a serious discussion as to how much we want to spend on Social Security and Medicare and whether we want higher taxes to pay for this (including, but not necessarily limited to, taxes beyond the top one percent). We cannot have serious consideration over such matters as long as talk centers entirely on cutting spending and as long as one political party is unwilling to consider any means to increase revenue. We will be doomed to gridlock on matters of public policy as long as Republicans refuse to behave as responsible legislators.