Saturday, February 23

Obama lied again, part gazillion

Last week Obama gave a speech lambasting the awful, terrible, HUGE cuts of a fraction of one percent of fed spending called the sequester.  According to him an absolute disaster awaits if we go through with those cuts.

A rational person would conclude that the sequester was a ghastly plan by his political opponents, the cwafty Wepubwicans.  And in fact Obama himself denied proposing the sequester.  His former chief of staff, now treasury secretary, Jack Lew, confirmed that the idea didn't come from the White House.  Press secretary Jay Carney said the same.

But as Democrat stalwart Bob Woodward found, they lied.  All of 'em.
Obama’s sequester deal-changer
   By Bob Woodward, Wash Post, February 22, 2013

What really happened?

The finger-pointing began during the third presidential debate last fall, on Oct. 22, when President Obama blamed Congress. “The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed,” Obama said. “It is something that Congress has proposed.”

The White House chief of staff at the time, Jack Lew, who had been budget director during the negotiations that set up the sequester in 2011, backed up the president two days later.

“There was an insistence on the part of Republicans in Congress for there to be some automatic trigger,” Lew said while campaigning in Florida. It “was very much rooted in the Republican congressional insistence that there be an automatic measure.”

The president and Lew had this wrong.  [I found] that the automatic spending cuts [i.e. the sequester] were initiated by the White House and were the brainchild of Lew and White House congressional relations chief Rob Nabors.

Obama personally approved of the plan for Lew and Nabors to propose the sequester to Senate majority leader Harry Reid. They did so at 2:30 p.m. July 27, 2011, according to interviews with two senior White House aides who were directly involved.

Nabors has told others that they checked with the president before going to see Reid. A mandatory sequester was the only action-forcing mechanism they could devise. Nabors has said, “We didn’t actually think it would be that hard to convince them” — Reid and the Republicans — to adopt the sequester. “It really was the only thing we had. There were not a lot of other options left.”

A majority of Republicans did vote for the Budget Control Act that summer, which included the sequester. 

This is classic propaganda: Woodward adds this line to shift the blame to Republicans in the reader's mind because Repubs voted for the sequester--which was the poison pill devised by Obama and the Dems to theoretically force the Repubs to accept tax increases without cutting spending by even a dollar.

At the Senate hearing on Lew’s nomination to become Treasury secretary, Sen. Richard Burr asked Lew about the account in my book: “Woodward credits you with originating the plan for sequestration. Was he right or wrong?”

Note how Lew avoids a direct answer, since it would have been an admission that Obama had flat-out lied about the origin of the sequester:

“It’s a little more complicated than that,” Lew responded, “and even in his account, it was a little more complicated than that. We were in a negotiation where the failure would have meant the default of the government of the United States.”

“Did you make the suggestion?” Burr asked.

Again Lew avoids a direct answer, instead citing a tactic used in congress almost 30 years earlier:

“Well, what I did was said that with all other options closed, we needed to look for an option where we could agree on how to resolve our differences. And we went back to the 1984 plan that Senator Gramm and Senator  Rudman worked on, and said that that would be a basis for having a consequence that would be so unacceptable to everyone that we would be able to get action.”

In other words, yes.

Then Burr asked about the president’s statement, during the debate, that the Republicans originated [the sequester idea].

Lew, being a good lawyer and a loyal presidential adviser, then shifted to denial mode: “Senator, the demand for an enforcement mechanism was not something that the administration was pushing at that moment.”

That statement was not accurate.

On Tuesday Obama appeared with a group of police officers and firefighters to denounce the sequester as a “meat-cleaver approach” that would jeopardize military readiness and investments in education, energy and readiness. He also said it would cost jobs.  He said the substitute would have to include new revenue through tax reform.

At noon that same day, White House press secretary Jay Carney shifted position and accepted sequester paternity.

“The sequester was something that was discussed,” Carney said. Walking back the earlier statements, he added carefully, “and as has been reported, it was an idea that the White House put forward.”

This was an acknowledgment that the president and Lew had been wrong. 
"...had been wrong" is a huge understatement.  Lew and Obama both knew they were lying about the origin of the sequester idea--it's why Lew refused to give a direct answer to Senator Burr's question.  "Being wrong" implies that they were simply passing on misinformation given them by someone else.  Woodward doesn't want to anger Democrats by being candid.
Why does this matter?

First, months of White House dissembling further eroded any trust between Obama and congressional Republicans.

Second, Lew testified during his confirmation hearing that the Republicans would not go along with new revenue [translation: higher taxes, but Woodward toes the Dem line by refusing to use those words] in the portion of the deficit-reduction plan that became the sequester.

A senior White House official confirmed this, saying “The sequester was an option we were forced to take because the Republicans would not do tax increases.”
So there you have it:  Even if Team Obama did propose the sequester, the party line is that it doesn't matter who proposed it because the Repubs *forced* the White House to take that option--because the Republicans "would not do tax increases.”

See?  We tol' ya it was the Repubs' fault!

Ultimately, senate Repub "leader" Mitch McConnell gave Obama what he most wanted--an agreement that the so-called debt ceiling would be increased for 18 months, so Obama would not have to go through another such negotiation in 2012, when he was running for reelection--in exchange for no tax increases.

From the Republican standpoint it was a lousy, stupid deal that may well have let Obama win a second term, by removing a huge chance to focus the nation's attention on the runaway spending of this and all Democrat administrations.

But nothing to see here, citizen.  It doesn't matter.  "What difference could it possibly make?"

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