With news reports today noting that in fiscal cliff negotiations President Obama is “sticking to the liberal line and frustrating Republicans on the other side of the bargaining table,” “offering nothing new to rein in spending and overhaul entitlement programs,” and that his unserious offer last week “is attracting praise from the left for his opening bid” for “presenting an early offer that asks for nearly everything that Democrats want, while refusing to outline any specific cuts or entitlement reforms,” observers are starting to see overreach on the part of Democrats and the White House.
On Friday, CNN’s David Gergen wrote, “[T]his week, there is a palpable sense in Washington that the parties are drifting apart and chances of an agreement before Christmas are diminishing. . . . Why has a grand bargain become so much harder than it should be? . . . [F]rankly, it is the president and the Democrats who are over-playing their hands now.” He added, “The proposal that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner put before Republicans on Thursday, as reported by The New York Times, was clearly intended to score political points with Democrats rather than entice Republicans into serious negotiations. It was full of nonstarters.”
Gergen explained, “What we are seeing, I regret to say, looks very much like a movie we have seen before: The side that wins an election thinks the public has given them permission to steamroll the other side, pushing through their favorite ideas willy-nilly. . . . We saw that back in the early ’90s, when first the Clinton White House overreached, going too far left . . . .” He warned that Democrats are in danger of “becoming so combative and rigid that good faith negotiations become almost impossible.”
In a column titled, “Who’s not bargaining in good faith?” The Washington Post’s Robert Samuelson says “Now it is time for President Obama and congressional Democrats to [abandon their untenable position]. As long as they don’t, they aren’t bargaining in good faith, or in the national interest.” Indeed, he points out, “That we have arrived at this juncture indicts our democratic system and many Democratic politicians, who have obstructed constructive change in retiree programs. Obama continues this short-sighted tradition.” After explaining the unsustainable costs of entitlement programs, Samuelson concludes, “Spending must be addressed. . . . By evading this, Obama flirts with failure.”
As Sen. Orrin Hatch, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said in the Weekly Republican Address, “The President has said he wants a so-called balanced approach to solve this crisis. But what he proposed this week was a classic bait and switch on the American people—a tax increase double the size of what he campaigned on, billions of dollars in new stimulus spending and an unlimited, unchecked authority to borrow from the Chinese. Maybe I missed it but I don’t recall him asking for any of that during the presidential campaign. These ideas are so radical that they have already been rejected on a bipartisan basis by Congress.
“Fresh off his reelection, the President has an obligation to first steer us away from the fiscal cliff, and second, to tackle our $16-plus trillion debt, that is driven by our runaway entitlement programs, so our country doesn’t reach this dangerous crossroads ever again.
“But we’ve seen an utter lack of leadership from President Obama, and his allies on the left have shown little—very little—to no willingness to tackle real, structural entitlement reform. There is no manner of tax hike that can save Medicare or Medicaid—these programs can only be fixed with real reforms that go to the heart of how they work. . . . The longer the White House waits to get serious is a day closer to going over the fiscal cliff, and the harder it will be to find a solution.”