Sequestration, for all its problems–and I consider it to be an abdication of responsible governance–is helpful at least to this extent: it captures, in a single, still-unfolding act the problematic character of the president.
To understand why, let’s update our effort to follow the bouncing Obama ball. Here’s some of what we know.
(a) The president and his administration are responsible for the sequestration idea. (b) Before that fact became widely known, Mr. Obama misled Americans of that fact in a debate with Mitt Romney–and his aides did the same thing in the aftermath of the debate. (c) Thanks to Bob Woodward’s The Price of Politics, the White House has now been forced to admit that, as top White House adviser Gene Sperling put it on Sunday, “Yes, we put forward the design of how to do that [implement sequestration].” (d) Over the last several weeks, the president vilified sequestration as a brutal, savage, and inhumane idea. (e) At a press conference last Friday, when sequestration cuts began and the world as we know it did not end, the president began to moonwalk away from his scorching rhetoric, saying, “Just to make the final point about the sequester, we will get through this. This is not going to be an apocalypse, I think, as some people have said.” (f) Since the sequestration idea was first signed into law by President Obama in 2011, House Republicans have twice passed legislation to make the cuts more reasonable–and Democrats have refused to act on it. (g) In the last week, Republicans have tried to give the president greater authority to make more reasonable cuts–but he has refused it, allowing unnecessary pain to be inflicted on Americans in order to blame Republicans.
To summarize, then: The president has spoken in the harshest possible terms about an idea he and his White House originated and signed into law. He has used apocalyptic language leading up to the sequestration–and then, as the sequestration cuts began, lectured us that “this is not going to be an apocalypse” as “some people have said.” And Mr. Obama has warned about the devastating nature of the cuts even as he has opposed efforts to make the cuts less devastating.
That’s quite a hat trick.
Will the president pay a political price for this fairly remarkable (and empirically demonstrable) record of dishonesty, inconsistency, and hypocrisy, to say nothing of inflicting unnecessary pain on the country he was elected to serve? I would think so, but I really don’t know.
What I do know is that the sequestration fight has once again shown us that Barack Obama has a defective public character and a post-modern attitude toward truth. He simply makes things up as he goes along. It looks to me that there are few things he will not do, and fewer things he will not say, in order to undermine his opponents and advance his progressive cause. That is something that is deeply injurious to American politics and America itself.