Ignoring Debt Limit Talks, Right-Wing Media Falsely Claim Obama Had “No Plan” To Reduce Deficit

Right-wing media have repeatedly claimed that President Obama had “no plan” about how to lower the nation's deficit and reach a compromise to resolve the default crisis. But Obama had reportedly agreed to specific reforms and spending cuts, including to entitlement programs, in talks with Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) before Boehner walked away from those negotiations.

Right-Wing Media Claim Obama Has “No Plan” For Deficit, Debt Ceiling Talks

Carlson: “Why Did [Obama] Then Ask For Primetime Coverage To Deliver A Political Speech And Give No Plan?” The July 27 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends featured several segments on the potential default crisis and ongoing negotiations over raising the debt limit. Fox & Friends co-hosts and Fox News contributors repeatedly claimed Obama gave “no plan” to lower the deficit and avoid default in his July 25 address to the nation and previous speeches on the default crisis. During the first segment, video was aired of an exchange between Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry and White House press secretary Jay Carney. After the video was aired, co-host Gretchen Carlson claimed that in addressing the nation July 25, Obama delivered “a political speech and [gave] no plan.” From the broadcast:

[start video]

HENRY: If you basically have this Boehner plan that you say can't get through the Senate, and you've got a Reid plan that the Republicans don't think you can get through the Senate or the House, and you're saying we want to compromise, what was the point of giving a primetime address to the nation without an Obama plan and say, “Neither of these other plans can work?”

CARNEY: OK, I understand the idea that there is not an Obama plan is like point number one --

HENRY: But there's not. There's not one on paper.

CARNEY: It's point number one on the talking points issue by the Republican party. I get it. OK?

HENRY: No, no, no. That's not a talking point. Show us the plan. It's not a talking point. That's unfair.

CARNEY: We have said -- first of all, the president put forward in detail his principles at George Washington University.

HENRY: Principles. Right, that's not a plan.

CARNEY: In quite a lot of detail. The president stood before you, I can't remember if you were here Friday night. Some of you weren't because you cut out early. But a lot of you were. And he put forward in detail with numbers what he's willing to do. He then referred from the podium to the fact that White House officials would be briefing in detail.

[end video]

CARLSON: See, it's a logical question. Because the President is not going to put anything on paper. That's ultimately clear right now. The second part of the question is, why did he then ask for prime-time coverage to deliver a political speech and give no plan? That is a legitimate question. Yesterday, we asked that of Gene Sperling, his economic advisor. Five hours before that particular press conference, we asked him what was new in that speech and he could not answer that question. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/27/11]

Perino: “The White House Is Trying To Get Away With Saying They Don't Need To Put Out A Plan.” Later during the July 27 broadcast, Carlson discussed negotiations surrounding the debt ceiling and potential default crisis with Fox News host Dana Perino. Carlson said that she thought Obama would have used his July 25 address to “announce his plan.” Later, Perino claimed that “the White House is trying to get away with saying they don't need to put out a plan, but they can just undermine everybody else's.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/27/11]

Ingraham: Carney “Was Incredulous That Reporters Were Asking Him About A Plan.” Later on Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham claimed that Carney was “incredulous that reporters were asking [Obama] to have a plan.” From the broadcast:

INGRAHAM: Look, the president's own press secretary yesterday, Jay Carney, was incredulous that reporters were asking him about a plan. You know, what is Obama's plan? He said, well, you mean we have to commit it to paper?

DOOCY: Darn it.

INGRAHAM: And we're like, yeah, we do have to commit it to paper. And I think you guys have touched on it -- even Democrats, independents, are saying okay, you're leaving it to us to slog through the details of these competing plans, we needed a little bit of leadership early on. And I think even some Democrats are questioning now the approach of hitting health care first, the stimulus first, and piling on all this debt when these problems were looming on the horizon for America now for many years.

CARLSON: Isn't this -- but isn't this a strategy, Laura, obviously, to not put anything on paper, because then you actually have to stand up to what you put on paper?

INGRAHAM: Defend it -- yeah. I think you're right, Gretchen. I think the strategy has backfired, though, because regardless of what you think about Harry Reid or even John Boehner, people are criticizing both of them -- they at least had the courage to put something down and to forge forward with a plan and a blueprint, same that can be said, of course, about Paul Ryan. I mean, he -- remember the other press conference, where the president looked down at Paul Ryan and dismissed his plan in the most cavalier and, I thought, very unprofessional manner. And now Paul Ryan, I think, is looking the most honest of the group in trying to tackle these entitlements. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/27/11]

NRO's Goldberg: “The White House Says It Doesn't Want To Release A Plan Because It Will Be Held Accountable For Having A Plan.” In a July 27 blog post, National Review Online editor-at-large Jonah Goldberg claimed that Obama “doesn't want to put forward a plan of his own.” From the post:

It is an amazing thing that the press corps has taken this long to really pin the White House down on the simple fact that Obama is the one playing political games here, creating rules for others to follow while not following them himself. The public explanation for why he doesn't want to put forward a plan of his own makes as much sense to me as the Korean-language instructions for a photocopy machine. All I know is that the White House says it doesn't want to release a plan because it will be held accountable for having a plan, but no one should criticize the White House for not having a plan because they actually offered one verbally that was full of “specifics” nobody will specify and the Republicans are in the dark about. [National Review Online, 7/27/11]

But Obama Did Outline Specific Details Of Negotiations Made Before Boehner Walked Away

Obama: “We Had Offered Speaker Boehner ... Over A Trillion Dollars In Cuts To Discretionary Spending ... [And] An Additional $650 Billion In Cuts To Entitlement Programs.” During his July 22 address on the default crisis, President Obama outlined several specific measures that he claimed he and Boehner had negotiated during their talks up to that point, including cuts to entitlement spending:

Good evening, everybody. I wanted to give you an update on the current situation around the debt ceiling. I just got a call about a half hour ago from Speaker Boehner who indicated that he was going to be walking away from the negotiations that we've been engaged in here at the White House for a big deficit reduction and debt reduction package. And I thought it would be useful for me to just give you some insight into where we were and why I think that we should have moved forward with a big deal.

Essentially what we had offered Speaker Boehner was over a trillion dollars in cuts to discretionary spending, both domestic and defense. We then offered an additional $650 billion in cuts to entitlement programs -- Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. We believed that it was possible to shape those in a way that preserved the integrity of the system, made them available for the next generation, and did not affect current beneficiaries in an adverse way.

In addition, what we sought was revenues that were actually less than what the Gang of Six signed off on. So you had a bipartisan group of senators, including Republicans who are in leadership in the Senate, calling for what effectively was about $2 trillion above the Republican baseline that they've been working off of. What we said was give us $1.2 trillion in additional revenues, which could be accomplished without hiking taxes -- tax rates, but could simply be accomplished by eliminating loopholes, eliminating some deductions and engaging in a tax reform process that could have lowered rates generally while broadening the base.

So let me reiterate what we were offering. We were offering a deal that called for as much discretionary savings as the Gang of Six. We were calling for taxes that were less than what the Gang of Six had proposed. And we were calling for modifications to entitlement programs, would have saved just as much over the 10-year window. In other words, this was an extraordinarily fair deal. If it was unbalanced, it was unbalanced in the direction of not enough revenue. [White House, 7/22/11]

NYT Runs Graphic Showing Specific Offers Obama And Boehner Had Made Through July 22. In a graphic first published July 21, and updated several times since, The New York Times listed specific measures that both Obama and Boehner had reportedly offered in negotiations. According to the Times, both had agreed to $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, a $250 billion cut from Medicare, and an increase in federal tax revenue of somewhere between $36.2 and $36.7 trillion over a period of 10 years. From the Times:

Grand Deal Graphic

[The New York Times, accessed 7/27/11]