By Chuck Hobbs – President Obama draws frequent criticism from Republicans and even some Democrats for being “disengaged.” A clear example of this was the bashing he took from a number of right wing pundits for being “on vacation” in Brazil while U.S. Warplanes struck Libya two weeks ago. Or the cries of “aloof” when the president announced his picks for the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament, a move that struck some as being less than presidential.
As the Federal government heads toward it first shutdown of non-essential government functions in 15 years, the “disengaged” charge is rearing its head yet again as Congressional leaders insist that the president’s clout is needed to force a compromise.
The flaw in this thinking is that at present, Congressional Republicans, heavily influenced by the Tea Party, are unwilling to budge on the more than 60 billion dollars in deficit cuts they currently propose. Congressional Democrats in recent weeks have suggested about a third of such cuts. The question is how can the president influence GOP deficit hawks that ran—and were elected—to rein in spending?
The other non-starter is the so called “riders” that are attached to current bills that would eliminate Federal funding for Planned Parenthood and NPR.
While this drama certainly bears watching, the main point, that President Obama lacks interest in the budget debate, strikes me as unlikely. There is a certain pettiness about the charge as even the president is allowed to spend recreational time. To relax, some presidents have golfed and hunted big game while others have hunted members of the opposite sex for sport. This president prefers basketball—live and let live I say.
White House aides in recent weeks have said that the president simply has not spoken publicly about the budget. Meaning, if the government does shut down it will be up to the American people to decide which political philosophy was right in refusing to budge and the president, with the bully pulpit that is the Oval Office, will have a prime perch from which to share his opinion as to who was at fault.