I'm well aware of the rule that dictates that both sides are always to blame for everything in all instances, but watching President Obama update the public after this morning's meeting with congressional leaders, it's hard not to notice there's very little he can do.
President Obama and Congressional leaders emerged from a White House meeting on Friday without resolution to the budget impasse, meaning that the across-the-board spending cuts that take effect Friday could remain in place for weeks if not months.Speaking to reporters after the hourlong meeting, Mr. Obama called the cuts "just dumb," and criticized Republicans for their refusal to negotiate a package that includes some new revenue to balance those cuts.
"We will get through this," he said. "This is not going to be an apocalypse, I think, as some people have said. It's just dumb. And it's going to hurt."
Reporters kept pressing Obama to take "responsibility" for congressional Republicans' refusal to compromise -- no, I don't understand the question, either -- and the president did his best to explain the flaws in the premise.
"I know that this has been some of the conventional wisdom that's been floating around Washington that somehow, even though most people agree that I'm being reasonable, that most people agree I'm presenting a fair deal, the fact that they don't take it means that I should somehow do a Jedi mind-meld with these folks and convince them to do what's right. Well, they're elected. We have a constitutional system of government. The Speaker of the House and the leader of the Senate and all those folks have responsibilities."What I can do is I can make the best possible case for why we need to do the right thing. I can speak to the American people about the consequences of the decisions that Congress is making or the lack of decision-making by Congress. But, ultimately, it's a choice they make."
Yes, I know "Jedi mind-meld" may seem like an unfortunate combination of Star Wars and Star Trek canon, but I prefer to think of it as Obama's way of bridging the divide between the two camps -- just like J.J. Abrams.
In any case, looking ahead, the president continues to leave the door open to the one thing congressional Republicans won't consider: a compromise that requires concessions from both sides.
"I do believe that we can and must replace these cuts with a more balanced approach that asks something from everybody: Smart spending cuts; entitlement reform; tax reform that makes the tax code more fair for families and businesses without raising tax rates -- all so that we can responsibly lower the deficit without laying off workers, or forcing parents to scramble for childcare, or slashing financial aid for college students."I don't think that's too much to ask. I don't think that is partisan. It's the kind of approach that I've proposed for two years. It's what I ran on last year. And the majority of the American people agree with me in this approach, including, by the way, a majority of Republicans. We just need Republicans in Congress to catch up with their own party and their country on this. And if they did so, we could make a lot of progress."