President Obama meets with his Cabinet on March 4 to discuss the effects of the sequestration. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images
Ron Fournier, the editorial director of National Journal and former chief Washington correspondent for The Associated Press, understands as well as anyone the sequence of events that led to the hangman's noose of a sequester that slammed down on the government last week. He understands that President Obama and Democrats have proposals that offer a mix of real spending cuts, entitlement cuts, and tax increases, to reduce the deficit by a prescribed amount.
He also understands that Republicans refuse to deal with any proposal that includes any revenue increases short of complete tax reform, even one that would cut $5 of spending for every $1 of revenue raised. Fournier also understands that President Obama won the last election, and that the country endorsed his policies. He understands that Republicans have balked at the responsibility to govern, and that House Republicans have no political incentive to compromise. He gets all of these things.
And yet, Fournier has the temerity, in the eyes of some, like The Washington Post's Greg Sargent, to call out President Obama for not contributing to the solution. All of Washington, Fournier believes, is acting like a child. He used an analogy to make his point:
@ron_fournier: "Wife says son and I tracked mud in house. I blamed son, saying he did it first and most. Look at me! I’m presidential. #sequestration.":
He elaborated, working in a Twitter conversation with former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau:
Liberals hate it when any responsibility is pinned on Obama. They remind critics that there are three branches of government, and no dictator. Sticking with the analogy, I suggest that there are no excuses in parenthood:
@ron_fournier: I'm just talking about life its own self – solving problems, leading a household. Not politics.
@jonfavs: Then you should go clean up that floor because the rest of us are trying to figure out #sequester.
@ron_fournier: I did get the bright idea to demand that a reporter tell me how to mop the floor. Wife unimpressed by Jedi tricks. I admit it was somewhat of a cheap shot to refer to Obama's news conference Friday, when he claimed to be powerless to overcome the GOP. To make his point (and to embarrass a reporter holding him accountable), Obama asked a journalist to tell him how she would bargain with Republicans. This seems to be a shockingly poor argument for any leader to make: Help me, I can't do it.
The Post's Sargent doesn't like this because it reeks of false equivalency. There is just no way to compare the GOP intransigence with anything the president does because the GOP has been so unserious about governing.
It is objectively true, as Democrats point out, that Dems are offering a compromise to resolve our fiscal problems, while Republicans are refusing to accept any compromise to resolve them. Meanwhile, the Republican representation of the fundamental differences between the two parties — again, on the most important question at the heart of this crisis — is objectively false. It's grounded in lies.
Fournier thinks that the false equivalency cry is used too often when there are genuine and significant differences and where the truth is not discernible. Here, though, he might agree with Sargent to a point.
That point is: What do we do now? Even if the GOP is all bad and the president is bathed in white light, that does not absolve him of his core responsibility to get things done — to govern. Governing, in this sense, means figuring out how to deal with an opposition that is terribly intransigent and even pathologically so. Republicans are immune to shame at this point. So even though Obama does not deserve the burden of sacrifice, if he is an adult, he may well have to sacrifice for the greater good, which is governing a country.
Politics is not fair. Are these arguments fair?
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why is American internet so slow?
- 7 ways to be the most interesting person in any room
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline
- 22 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Colorado’s new ‘drive high, get a DUI’ commercials are actually pretty clever
- Who are the real gay marriage bigots?
- Religious liberty should be a liberal value, too
- Sorry Belle Knox, porn still oppresses women
- Ukraine's fraught relationship with Russia: A brief history
Subscribe to the Week