President Obama has gone all-in trying to get Republicans to blink and serve up another round of tax increases in lieu of the looming spending sequester. Eschewing talks with Congress or any pretense of leadership, he is instead flying around the country burning $180,000 an hour on Air Force One laying out a parade of horribles that will descend upon us if the growth of federal spending were reduced by one iota.
Why is he doing this? Because the mainstream media are lapping it up. Poisoned meat coming to grocery shelves near you! Air traffic grinds to a screeching halt! Fires, murder, and mayhem in the streets as first responders are laid off! No visits to the Washington Monument! OK, it all makes for good copy.
But what would happen to the media narrative if the Republicans don’t collapse into a puddle of cowardice and the sequester were to actually stick? Imagine the stories if Obama, in an attempt to turn public opinion against his political opponents, were to concentrate spending cuts on the most visible and critical government functions. Party organs like The New York Times or MSNBC might buy into that ploy, but what do you think will run in the independent press right alongside the photos of two-hour airport security lines?
My bet is you’ll see stories about the bottomless pit of waste, fraud, pork, cronyism, malinvestment, and idiocy that characterize so much of business as usual in Washington. With a glut of examples a mere Google search away, it won’t be long before even the most disengaged voter—facing some Obama-generated inconvenience and having these stories shoved in his face—asks, “What do you mean I can’t get my passport renewed? Couldn’t they fire Obama’s $100,000 a year dog trainer instead?” And if this phony “austerity” is imposed on the rest of us, how do you think the public will react to the First Lady’s next multi-million dollar vacation?
Sound far-fetched? Then consider that the sequester has already backfired on Obama once. Last year, when he set the automatic sequester strategy in motion to try to wheedle more taxes and spending out of his opponents, he believed it was a safe bet that the dysfunctional Republicans would cave before the spending cuts kicked in. (After all, they don’t call them the Stupid Party for nothing.) But apparently he never imagined that the GOP would become so dysfunctional, or that Congress would become so mired in partisan strife, that the cuts really would happen. Thus, we get to watch the leader of the Western world holding a busted flush trying to bluff his way through the final round of betting.
If there are any smart Republicans left in Congress, watching Obama’s increasingly extreme threats should get them to thinking: Go ahead, make my day. If there are any trusted advisors to the President who aren’t complete toadies they must be thinking: How in the world do we get out of the corner we’ve painted ourselves into?
The best thing about the first post-sequester news cycle will be watching an army of think tanks, budget analysts, and media commentators roll out, in exquisite detail, a long list of discretionary spending programs that could easily been trimmed instead of whatever Obama decides to whack with a meat axe.
When questioned about priorities, don’t expect the White House’s response to be any more coherent than Jay Carney’s blubbering disappearing act when asked whether donating $500,000 to Organizing for America, the political advocacy group created to promote Obama’s initiatives, could really buy quarterly meetings with the president.
Well, Jay, explain this to me: The most imperial president in American history, a man who boasts that he will rule by Executive Action if Congress refuses to pass legislation he favors, can’t figure out how to direct spending cuts in a way that does the least harm to the American people?
I can’t wait. And what’s more, everyone can get in on the act. Got a favorite example of government waste and fraud? Sick of watching your hard-earned dollars get incinerated supporting one egregious boondoggle after another? Is there a particular program you’d prefer to see cut before they lay off all the meat inspectors?
Just tweet it to hashtag #SequesterThis and share it with the world.