It's a bad thing to be a suspect with no alibi. It's a bit worse if you have two alibis that are, if not logically exclusive, at least surprisingly coincidental. The Supercommittee failed to reach an agreement on deficit reduction raising the famously awful prospect of an across the board sequester. Who is to blame?
Michael Gerson at the Washington Post likes President Obama for the crime.
Budget deals get done because presidents prod, plead, cajole, demand and threaten. A few phone calls and tepid public statements do not count. It is the executive, not the legislature, that gives the budget process energy and direction. The supercommittee failed primarily because President Obama gave a shrug.
Ruth Marcus, also at the WaPo, provides the President with an alibi for his absence.
For all the eleventh-hour, "where-was-Obama?" moaning, the bipartisan congressional directive to the White House as the supercommittee did its work was simple: Back off.
That's right. The message from both Republican and Democratic members of the group was that presidential involvement could only be counterproductive.
That's the best case that can be made for the President's aloofness from the Supercommittee: I would have been involved, but they disinvited me. Unfortunately for this line of defense, Carrie Budoff Brown and Glenn Thrush, writing in the Politico, provide a second alibi.
Obama — burned by the failed deficit-reduction talks with Republicans during the summer debt-ceiling fight — believes that being accused of disengagement is preferable to being lumped with the in-fighting lawmakers who fumbled a chance to reach an agreement by the Monday deadline…
Obama's defiance served as the coda to a remarkably disciplined campaign by the White House to keep him as removed as possible from what aides viewed as a doomed process, showing a degree of indifference to Beltway punditry that hasn't been on display since his days as a candidate, Democrats said.
So Obama studiously remained "as removed as possible" from the Supercommittee deliberations. It was doomed anyway, and he would just have been "lumped with in-fighting lawmakers". The political image was all that mattered to "the White House."
So which is it? Did Obama want to be involved and was rebuffed, or did he deliberately avoid involvement? The latter surely looks more like our man. It is precisely the President's job to "prod, plead, cajole, demand and threaten" those who don't want such treatment. When he fails to do that he is not doing his job, regardless of the excuse.
President Obama has consistently failed to provide leadership on the critical problem facing these United States: fiscal solvency. He created a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and then, with "remarkable discipline", ignored its report. He proposed a budget in February that utterly ignored the fiscal crisis. When challenged by the new Congress, he gave a speech acknowledging the need to reform our major entitlement programs. He did not provide details or any coherent proposal.
The European Union is collapsing in slow but steady motion. China is showing much the same symptoms. In the U.S., the fiscal rot is evident at every level from the Federal Treasury down to city hall. The President is utterly unconcerned with any of this. He is concerned only with his campaign. If Obama is reelected, we will surely get four more years of the same.
This may be the moment we will look back on, the moment that everything stopped getting better.