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The President’s Cliff and the White House Annex That Is NBC: Gregory Pratfalls Again

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david gregory meet the press ar15 magazine 121223

A break from vacation to comment on one of the worst interviews of a sitting president ever.

If we topple over the “fiscal cliff,” it will of course be the fault of President Obama and his continued inability to negotiate with anyone in good faith and to use absurd arguments in support of indefensible positions. The transcript of David Gregory’s Meet the Press “interview” with the president as provided by Politico’s Mike Allen includes all the regular features of an Obama conversation –self-absorption, condescension, blame-assigning, and a refusal to answer even basic questions. And of course a representative of the craven press. There’s a reason why POTUS picked Gregory and not say Jake Tapper and it is because Tapper isn’t going to look dreamily into the Commander-in-Chief’s eyes and as “Is this your Lincoln moment?” At least the president has the good sense to decline to embrace that much adulation.

The worst part of the exchange comes here:

GREGORY: “Would you commit to that first year of your second term getting significant [entitlement] reform done?” …

OBAMA: “David, I want to be very clear. You are not only going to cut your way to prosperity. One of the fallacies I think that has been promoted is this notion that deficit reduction is only a matter of cutting programs that are really important to seniors, students and so forth. That has to be part of the mix, but what I ran on and what the American people elected me to do was to put forward a balanced approach. To make sure that there’s shared sacrifice. … And it is very difficult for me to say to a senior citizen or a student or a mom with a disabled kid, ‘You are going to have to do with less but we’re not going to ask millionaires and billionaires to do more.’”

No follow up from Gregory on how the president wasn’t “very clear,” and how insignificant the revenue raised from asking “millionaires and billionaires to do more.” No surprise there, but it will be a surprise if the GOP is surprised that the president is simply not going to touch entitlements –ever. He refuses to care about the deficit and thus the debt and the nation’s defenses and is betting that he can get out of Dodge in four years without the roof having fallen in him thanks to Ben Bernanke and perhaps the theory that the world’s reserve currency can be printed in endless amounts.

As the responsible party the GOP will have to force the issue and sooner –perhaps today– than later. Senator McConnell is the best fellow to be on the GOP point here, and it is hard to imagine the wily Kentuckian given up all his leverage for one cycle of praise from the White House Annex at NBC and the other nets. We’ll see. Even if he felt the good of the country required an immediate fix to the tax rate debacle, scores of GOPers will have to vote “no” because of their understanding of their pledge not to vote to raise taxes, or, having broken the pledge or defined it away, explain to their constituents why they did so. The president’s political strategy is pretty obvious: Destroy the GOP’s credibility on taxes while launching a number of primary challenges to GOP incumbents forced to vote for an economy-hurting tax hike by the exigencies of the moment.

Whatever Senator McConnell does, I also expect the president to be campaigning to neuter him in the same way he cut the legs out from under John Boehner. It is what the president does. Looking forward to the high-flying rhetoric of the inaugural address given this backdrop.

As for David Gregory, he missed a chance to make Meet the Press relevant again, and embarrassed Tim Russert’s memory two weeks in a row. Russert was always about saving Social Security from insolvency, maddeningly so in some cases, but he never let his guests waltz away from the consequences of their fiscal irresponsibility. This, the most fiscally irresponsible president in history and perhaps, as Mark Steyn suggests when he notes that the U.S. is the “brokest nation in history,” the most fiscally irresponsible political figure ever (some of the old Romans were even more profligate in percentage terms, but POTUS is getting close to going Caesar when it comes to the public treasury).

“Lincoln moment?”  Sheesh.  Did Gregory offer to wash his car?


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