WASHINGTON – Congressional Republicans long ago spent much of their good will by announcing they wanted President Obama to fail. Now the president himself is squandering credibility he may desperately need before his term is up by making bizarre claims about the sequester.
Days before the president went before Congress Feb. 12 to announce a highly questionable power to use executive orders to promote green energy, he sent word that even as commander in chief, he could not deploy the carrier USS Harry S. Truman to the Persian Gulf.
“Commander in chief” is etched into the Constitution, and he used that to order 60,000 troops into Afghanistan and assassinate by drone without congressional authority.
Obama didn’t put out the Truman story himself. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s office did. Other subordinates who brought good reputations to Washington, like Education Secretary Arne Duncan, were likewise prompted to prevaricate for the president. That in itself is a chilling reflection of the breadth of the obedience this president enforces.
Duncan declared that 40,000 teachers would be laid off because of cuts to the federal education budget, referring to teachers “who are now getting pink slips.” When pressed, Duncan couldn’t name a single teacher, according to a blog in the Washington Post.
Obama warned of longer lines to get on an airplane because of reduction in force (RIF) notices being sent to security screeners employed by the Department of Homeland Security. Yet, in the president’s 2013 budget last year, he recommended cutting the force by nearly 3 percent.
Wouldn’t a president who wished to minimize the frustration felt by his citizens in airport lines find a way to compensate in a department employing 240,000? Not now. With the possibility of sequester looming for nearly a year and a half, the White House last fall ordered departments not to plan for it.
The president and surrogates declared that all the pain – shortages of hamburgers and increased threat of mid-air collisions – will start at once, meaning that not only would the White House not intervene to relieve any havoc but that there wouldn’t be a prompt political resolution of the fiscal crisis.
Yet the Wall Street Journal noted that staffers at the Internal Revenue Service won’t be taking their seven unpaid leave days until well after tax time is over with. Every long-standing liberal group has jumped into the fray with harrowing tales of hardship – all designed to return the Democrats to the House majority in 2015. Along with groups never before heard from like the National Federation of Nurses. It denounced “devastating cuts” in spending for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obama, however, last year proposed slashing spending in some CDC agencies by 10 percent.
When the president mentions cruel cuts in education spending, he fails to mention that outlays in that sector increased 18 percent under him.
Commentators on the Republican side have tried to minimize the severity of the cuts, claiming they amount to $42 billion instead of $85 billion; that they are reductions from planned increases in domestic spending.
Even so, they will affect some people negatively. Keep in mind the taxpayers’ interest costs on the spiraling national debt are almost out of control. Even with rates at record lows, the actual interest outlays now equal everything spent on Medicare Parts A and B.
It is a sad time when an American president exaggerates or falsifies to frighten his people. Bush-Cheney flirted with terrorism alerts in 2004. But Obama’s campaign is more brazen, calculated and broader. It represents what the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan called “defining deviancy down.”