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George Michael: Sequester flip-flop

March 08, 2013|By GEORGE MICHAEL

Assigning responsibility for the sequestration “crisis” is a tricky business. The president has been doing a great job blaming the Republicans. But there’s a question about Obama’s role in the whole affair.

Watergate star reporter Bob Woodward created a mini firestorm last week with his article in the Washington Post suggesting that the idea for sequestration originated in the White House. 

In his piece, Woodward stated, “My extensive reporting for my book ‘The Price of Politics’ shows that the automatic spending cuts were initiated by the White House and were the brainchild of (White House Chief of Staff Jack) Lew and White House congressional relations chief Rob Nabors — probably the foremost experts on budget issues in the senior ranks of the federal government.

“Obama personally approved of the plan for Lew and Nabors to propose the sequester to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). They did so at 2:30 p.m. July 27, 2011, according to interviews with two senior White House aides who were directly involved.”

Woodward complicated matters when a follow-up article in the Post last week said Woodward felt “threatened” by a senior White House aide. Once the emails between Woodward and the White House aide were made public, many decided Woodward was overplaying his hand even though the memo he received did say that Woodward would regret writing his article for the Post.

MSNBC and other media outlets made the focus of the whole affair Woodward’s paranoia to avoid discussing the substance of the White House’s role in recommending the sequester. 

So whose idea was it anyway?  That issue might be lost in “the fog” of the political war. However, what is clear is that in the months following, the president clearly threatened a veto if House Republicans did anything to stop the automatic sequester he helped arrange. 

At a White House press conference on Nov. 21, 2011, the president said, “Already, some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts. My message to them is simple: No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts — domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off ramps on this one.”

Now, his supporters would like us to believe that he said no such thing. They would like to take the “off ramp” and leave the blame on the Republicans. 

Apparently, the president was for the sequester before he was against it. Whatever is expedient politically at any given time is his tactic.  During the campaign, we were told that Mitt Romney was the big flip-flopper.  

What does all this suggest? It suggests that the president is not really serious about the sequester cuts. After all, when the Senate voted on a Republican-sponsored option last week to give the President absolute power on exactly what to cut, the White House threatened to veto that, too, and Senate Democrats took him off the hook by quickly defeating the bill. This is the same Democratic-controlled Senate that hasn’t passed a budget in four years.

The president’s lack of leadership is clearly evident by his grandstanding and demagoguery on the issue. Rather than trimming useless federal bureaucracies, attacking government fraud or helping to identify any number of downright wasteful government projects, he tells us that the target of the cuts will be police officers, firefighters and air-traffic controllers.

We can conclude one thing. The president’s goal is political gain.  He doesn’t really want to end the sequester. Rather than working to resolve this crisis, which he helped manufacture, he aims to discredit the Republican Party. His eye is on the 2014 mid-term elections, not the impact of the budget cuts.  

This is Chicago-style politics. It worked well there. Thanks to this president, we are all Chicago now.

George Michael, who lives in Williamsport, is a former principal of Grace Academy. His email address is gfmichael46@gmail.com.



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