Bob Woodward is no bloviating conservative pundit. The liberal journalist who took down President Nixon is sympathetic to Obama’s economic policy. However, Woodward has said from the beginning that the sequester cuts were President Obama and budget director Jack Lew’s idea; and he’s sticking to his guns.
Now Woodward takes it a step further and points out that President Obama is both lying and reneging on the deal that he made with Republicans in Congress.
“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.
Why does this matter?
First, months of White House dissembling further eroded any semblance of trust between Obama and congressional Republicans. (The Republicans are by no means blameless and have had their own episodes of denial and bald-faced message management.)
Second, Lew testified during his confirmation hearing that the Republicans would not go along with new revenue in the portion of the deficit-reduction plan that became the sequester. Reinforcing Lew’s point, a senior White House official said Friday, “The sequester was an option we were forced to take because the Republicans would not do tax increases.”
In fact, the final deal reached between Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2011 included an agreement that there would be no tax increases in the sequester in exchange for what the president was insisting on: an agreement that the nation’s 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.
So when the president asks that a substitute for the sequester include not just spending cuts but also new revenue, he is moving the goal posts. His call for a balanced approach is reasonable, and he makes a strong case that those in the top income brackets could and should pay more. But that was not the deal he made.
For the record, as most of you know, I completely disagree with Woodward’s assertion that Obama’s proposals are anything close to “balanced” or “reasonable.” However, I think it is very crucial that one of the most influential journalists in our nation’s history is calling out the President for what he is: a manipulative liar and a dishonest dealmaker.