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Obama’s Deficit Speech Largely Viewed As Partisan, Campaign Promotion

Jenny Chen |
April 13, 2011 | 3:19 p.m. PDT

Associate News Editor


President Obama (Creative Commons)
President Obama (Creative Commons)
President Obama’s speech on Wednesday has been critiqued for offering an increased partisan view on the budget plan and showcasing a sharper divide between the Democrats and the Republicans. 

His speech at George Washington University has also been assessed critically for failing to be specific enough about an alternative budget plan. 

Called by some as “the president’s first 2012 campaign speech,” Obama’s speech offered a very different take on means to close a $4 trillion deficit in 12 years. 

Howard Kurtz from The Daily Beast called it an “eat-your-peas speech” before saying Obama “excelled at eviscerating the GOP budget plan as slashing away worthy programs and leading to ‘a fundamentally different America’ – one that would screw everyone from college students to Medicare patients who would get cheapo vouchers.”  

Meanwhile, Reuters Breakingviews columnist James Pethokoukis wrote that while Obama’s plan was an upgrade, it was still “full of accounting gimmicks, and ducks making necessary long-term fixes.” 

“That tactic may be good politics as the president heads into an election year, but it also shows a worrying lack of urgency,” Pathokoukis wrote. 

Obama was firm in his critique of the House GOP budget plan and surprised a few with his partisan tone, arguing a major philosophical difference between his plan and the Republican one. 

“Accused by many fiscal experts of offering a 2012 budget proposal that failed to make hard choices, it's now clear that Obama does want to cut spending. But he wants to do it on his own terms,” CNN reporter Charles Riley wrote.

Yet, a few critics are concerned with the lack of specifics on how to resolve the deficit crisis.

Kurtz said that Obama failed to offer specifics on how to successfully cut Pentagon spending while protecting areas including medical research and clean energy. 

“Once again, Obama is taking the high rhetorical ground while largely leaving the details to others,” Kurtz said. 

Kyle Wingfield of the Atlanta Journal Constitution added there was significant “timeline creep” in Obama’s speech “to make his figures appear comparable to Paul Ryan’s plan.” Wingfield added that Ryan’s plan touched on both Medicare and Medicaid, when Obama barely addressed them. 

Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin wrote: “It was rather embarrassing in what it did offer: negotiations with Joe Biden, more defense cuts and taxes on the rich.” 

Unsurprisingly, major Republican figures seemed to agree, appearing unsatisfied with Obama’s speech.

 “More promises, hollow targets, and Washington commissions simply won’t get the job done,” Boehner said, adding that he had yet to hear a plan from Obama that matched the budget plan from the Republicans. 

Republican South California Senator Jim DeMint concurred.

“The President made it absolutely clear today that Democrats will cling bitterly to deficit spending until our nation is bankrupt,” DeMint said. 

Still, there were still some positive reactions from those who had previously criticized Obama for failing to show enough leadership.

One snap analysis said Obama’s speech had identified sources for deficit savings, borrowing from a bipartisan fiscal commission, and a need for tax reform.  

Paul Krugman from the New York Times blogged that Obama’s speech was “way better than the rumors and trial balloons.  I can live with this. And whatever the pundits may say, it was much, much more serious than the Ryan ‘plan.”

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa agreed, praising Obama’s speech in a statement released Wednesday. 

“President Obama laid out a forward-thinking, balanced economic plan that reduces the deficit while protecting middle-class Americans,” Villaraigosa said.

Donna Brazile, interim chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee also commended Obama for his two goals: “putting American back on sound fiscal footing and guaranteeing that as we do so we continue to support strong economic growth and increased job creation.” 

Others indicate that Wednesday’s speech will be well received by the audience it was meant to reach: moderates and independent voters who are crucial to Obama’s reelection campaign. 

Reach reporter Jenny Chen here.
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