Yesterday, I noted that Politico, in an article prescribing the "7 things Obama needs to do" in his big budget speech, said that Obama had to attack Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal, show his willingness to "compromise" with Republicans, and ignore the GOP completely, all at the same time. Here's what I wrote:
I can't imagine how Obama pulls off this absurd trifecta, but if he does, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see tomorrow morning a Politico article on Obama's muddled message to Republicans.
I think you know where this is going.
This morning, Politico's Glenn Thrush -- who shared a byline on yesterday's article -- and Manu Raju take the president to task for, as they put it, "beat[ing] up" the Republicans with "a fiscal olive branch."
Here's what they write today (emphasis added):
Obama's long-anticipated speech on the deficit at George Washington University was one of the oddest rhetorical hybrids of his presidency - a serious stab at reforming entitlements cloaked in a 2012 campaign speech that was one of the most overtly partisan broadsides he's ever delivered from a podium with a presidential seal.
The centerpiece was a battle cry to his base, a call for $1 trillion in new taxes on the rich - on top of billions saved by allowing Bush-era tax cuts to lapse -- in lieu of the deep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and now identified with the GOP.
Liberals, for the most part, were assuaged. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said Obama's call for $4 trillion in cuts over 12 years was "much better than many of us feared." His conclusion:"I can live with this."
But the combative tenor of Obama's remarks, which included a swipe at his potential GOP challengers in 2012, may have scuttled the stated purpose of the entire enterprise - starting negotiations with Republicans on a workable bipartisan approach to attacking the deficit.
But this odd "rhetorical hybrid" that they say poisoned the compromise well is pretty much exactly what Thrush and Politico said Obama "need[ed] to do" in the speech -- they even specifically counseled Obama "beat up" the Republican plan. From their article yesterday:
When President Barack Obama finally steps into the deficit debate Wednesday, he faces a seemingly contradictory task:
He needs to reassure his liberal base but signal to Republicans that he's open to compromise. He needs to show he can get serious about cutting the budget but sustain the economic recovery. He needs to set out a sharply different vision than House Republicans but keep them at the table.
Beat up on Rep. Paul Ryan
Or his budget plan, at least.
To Democrats, this is a no-brainer. Republicans want to privatize Medicare, the most popular government program around. It's already been incorporated into the campaign strategy books of Democrats around the country, including the president's.
So the president, who has said very little about the Ryan budget, needs to make the moral case for Medicare, Democrats said.
Yesterday's article also acknowledged that "no matter what Obama says Wednesday, he won't go far enough to satisfy most Republicans," which leaves open the question of why Obama would need to show his willingness to compromise in the first place. But that also gets to a key point: Republicans were going to attack this speech as overly partisan regardless of its content. That's what they do, even when extraordinarily important legislation is on the line. So their criticism of Obama's speech is less an indication of Obama's failure to be conciliatory than it is a sign that the GOP are following the playbook.
But Politico used that utterly predictable framing to fault the president for doing what they said he needed to do.