By Ron Fournier
(National Journal)—Your federal government is almost certain to blow past the March 1 deadline for averting $1.2 trillion in haphazard budget cuts that could cost 700,000 jobs. Don’t worry. We know whom to blame. President Obama makes a credible case that he has reached farther toward compromise than House Republicans.
But knowing who’s at fault doesn’t fix the problem. To loosely quote Billy Joel: You may be right, Mr. President, but this is crazy.
Is this fiscal standoff (the fifth since Republicans took control of the House in 2011) just about scoring political points, or is it about governing?
If it’s all about politics, bully for Obama. A majority of voters will likely side with the president over Republicans in a budget dispute because of his popularity and the GOP’s pathetic approval ratings.
If it’s about governing, the story changes: In any enterprise, the chief executive is ultimately accountable for success and failure. Sure, blame Congress — castigate all 535 lawmakers, or the roughly half you hate. But there is only one president. Even if he’s right on the merits, Obama may be on the wrong side of history.
Fair or not, the president owns this mess. What can he do about it? For starters, he could read this op-ed piece published two months ago in a Midwestern newspaper. With a few tweaks, Obama could make it a presidential address. The author, whose identity I will disclose later, laid out a case for the then-looming “fiscal cliff.” It is still applicable, even powerful. (The op-ed excerpts are in italics.)
Americans are fed up with the jousting.… There is a lot of public posturing but apparently not much genuine conversation.