Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 10, 2011

Not a Great Start to a Reelection Campaign

There may not have been any obvious winners of the budget battle, but there were some who came off worse than others. From the looks of things, President Obama made a bad bet on his strategy of staying out of the way and swooping in at the last minute.

Republicans have been hitting Obama for his lack of leadership–especially since recent polls show he has a weakness in this area–and his absence for much of the budget battle allowed a perfect opening for pushing this narrative.

“The president isn’t leading,” Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday. “He didn’t lead on last year’s budget, and he clearly is not leading on this year’s budget.”

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There may not have been any obvious winners of the budget battle, but there were some who came off worse than others. From the looks of things, President Obama made a bad bet on his strategy of staying out of the way and swooping in at the last minute.

Republicans have been hitting Obama for his lack of leadership–especially since recent polls show he has a weakness in this area–and his absence for much of the budget battle allowed a perfect opening for pushing this narrative.

“The president isn’t leading,” Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday. “He didn’t lead on last year’s budget, and he clearly is not leading on this year’s budget.”

The fact that the president eventually got involved wasn’t enough to dispel this impression. Despite the White House’s expectation that Obama would come off as a hero in the end, Americans haven’t forgotten that the president and the Democrats could have passed a budget last fall—but neglected to do so because it might have hurt them politically.

Some evidence that the Republican narrative won the day? The White House is being now being forced to go on the defensive about Obama’s leadership.

“I do think that should give us some confidence that this is the first big test of this divided government and the speaker, the president, the Senate majority leader . . . they were able to work together,” said White House advisor David Plouffe on ABC’s This Week. “So the president has led. Sometimes here in Washington when people accuse you of not having leadership what they mean is you’re not leading the political fight.”

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