Sunday, January 27, 2013

Obama: Media is to blame for promoting gridlock

How the media shapes the debate is “one of the biggest factors” in determining whether his second-term priorities have a fighting chance of survival in Washington, President Obama said.

In a sit-down interview with The New Republic, Obama covered an array of themes likely to define the beginning of his second term, and reflected on the role of the media in shaping the political conversation during his first four years in office. Lawmakers, he argued, would be more willing to compromise if they did not have to worry about their media image.

“Nobody gets on TV saying, ‘I agree with my colleague from the other party.’ People get on TV for calling each other names and saying the most outlandish things,” Obama said.

To prove his point, the president said he felt House Speaker John Boehner “genuinely wanted to get a deal done” on the fiscal cliff, but had his hands tied in balancing the expectations of extremists within his caucus. Obama said lawmakers during the negotiations were unwilling to compromise for fear of becoming vulnerable to attacks from members of their own party.

“If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you’ll see more of them doing it,” he added.

The president went on to warn of false equivalencies in how reporters cover the Beltway under the guise of impartiality and objectivity. While Democrats can also be culprits of partisan gridlock, Obama argued they could not be equally compared to the obstructionism seen on the right.

“I think the difference is just that the more left-leaning media outlets recognize that compromise is not a dirty word,” he said. “And I think at least leaders like myself—and I include Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in this–are willing to buck the more absolutist-wing elements in our party to try to get stuff done.”

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Obama taking heat from some backers over deal

President Obama is taking heat from some supporters on the fiscal cliff deal.

One of the critics' biggest complaints: The agreement doesn't address the soon-to-be-topped debt ceiling, setting up yet another budget fight with Republicans over the next two months.

Some liberals also said Obama settled for too high a threshold for higher income taxes. The agreement ends the George W. Bush-era tax cuts only for individuals who make more than $400,000 a year, and couples who make more than $450,000.

It also ends the payroll tax holiday, so that tax went up 2% on Tuesday.

In urging Democrats to reject the agreement, Timothy Noah of The New Republic wrote: "Your president has sold you out … The White House means well, but it has bargained incompetently."

Noah and other critics said Obama would have had more leverage over Republicans if the nation had gone off the fiscal cliff Tuesday and been hit with the automatic tax hikes and budget cuts that came along with it. Now, said Noah, "the deal gives Republicans carte blanche to take America hostage all over again in a month or two over raising the debt limit."

All that said, the Senate easily approved the measure early Monday by a vote of 89-8. Only three Democratic senators voted against it.

The Republican-run House is expected to take up the measure on Tuesday.

In a statement issued after the Senate vote, Obama noted that "neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted," and that the agreement "is the right thing to do for our country."

Obama and aides also noted that the deal increases taxes on Americans making more than $400,000 a year, the first such tax hike in more than 20 years. They said the plan also sets a template for future debt reductions.

"We will continue to reduce the deficit through a combination of new spending cuts and new revenues from the wealthiest Americans," Obama said.

Of course, Republican congressional leaders are also taking some heat over the fiscal cliff agreement, their backers saying the party gave up too much. They noted that it includes tax increases, but no meaningful spending cuts.

"I am a Republican," tweeted Donald Trump. "But the Republicans may be the worst negotiators in history."

Trump also said: "Obama and the Democrats are laughing at the deal they just made...the Republicans got nothing!"

Five Republican senators opposed the agreement. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, said the plan "just postpones the inevitable, the need to solve our growing debt crisis."