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“I’m Going to the American People With This”

So said President Obama before reportedly storming out of high-pressure debt ceiling discussions with Republicans last night. It sounds like the president is more interested in playing politics than in actually drilling down and resolving the problem.

He’s already “gone” to the American people – with his hopelessly vague budget plan speech, his hyper-partisan press conferences, and his fear-mongering to elderly voters. What he needs to do now is the same thing he’s avoided doing since the beginning of his presidency: sit down with lawmakers and hammer out some sort of resolution. Being the “adult in the room” only works if you actually stay in the room. Running out in a huff because you can’t take the pressure isn’t a Reagan-esque move – it’s a tantrum.

Today, Senate Democrats are planning to hold another press conference criticizing the Republicans. Obama will do two more TV interviews, ostensibly on “the importance of finding a balanced approach to deficit reduction” – but it’s more likely he’ll be spouting more of the same divisiveness.

Obama might call these interviews and press conferences “going to the American people.” But in reality it’s just demagoguery of his political opponents, which is exactly what helped lead us to this crisis point, as Karl Rove writes in the Wall Street Journal:

His tone also hasn’t helped achieve a comprehensive agreement. The president’s two most recent press conferences, in which he accused the GOP of foot-dragging, convinced Republicans that he was interested in scoring political points and attracting independents, not facilitating a deal. Convening high-profile White House meetings without offering substantive concrete proposals and then having his aides leak madly (and inaccurately) to the press afterward further squandered trust.

Maintaining trust with the opposing party is an essential component of presidential leadership, and it’s something that has eluded Obama since he took office. The candidate who once promised to end the partisan gridlock of Washington has become the president who has systematically made it worse.



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