Barack Obama is Done Talking to You

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 15 2013 9:43 AM

Barack Obama is Done Talking to You

If you missed it yesterday afternoon, I wrapped up the final press conference of Barack Obama's first term by emphasizing just how aggressive he'd become since the debt limit fight.

Obama doesn’t think the Republicans have any leverage at all. Their base wants them to cut spending and default, but their donors will kick the bridle off once things get dicey. “If John Boehner and Mitch McConnell think that they can come up with a plan that somehow meets [the] criteria that they’ve set,” said Obama, “they’re free to go ahead and try. But the proposals that they’ve put forward in order to accomplish that only by cutting spending means cuts to things like Medicare and education that the American people profoundly reject.”

A point I try to make near the end is that research on "presidential persuasion" leads one to be extremely pessimistic about what a president can do by talking. It's in the interest of Republicans to oppose whatever Barack Obama does, and try to make him fail. The responses to the Monday presser, from House and Senate Republicans, were variations on "I will fight this irresponsible approach." Witness Rep. Rob Woodall, a pretty representative conservative.

I would love to work with the President on reducing deficits, but he doesn't want to work with me. He could have done it through the Joint Select Committee in 2011, but he refused. He could have done it in the Fiscal Cliff debate, but he refused. He doesn’t believe that debt and deficits are the catastrophic problems that I believe that they are. President Obama's record-high deficits will destroy our economy and thus our freedoms.

Obama's bet: Uh, who cares whether the Congress blames me? Who doesn't hate Congress these days?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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