Last night's $450 billion job proposal speech by President Barack Obama was one of his better speeches in recent months on a tactical level.
He made it sound very bipartisan by constantly invoking Republican recommendations in his proposal.
He claimed that the last thing he wanted was class warfare –a charge that Republican and conservative critics have leveled at the administration.
He also pleaded for immediate bipartisan action to heal the economy to avoid waiting till the political stalemate has been resolved at the ballot box in 2012.
The Republicans were offered their desired payroll tax cuts (albeit only for a year) and they were even told that this lavish package would be all paid for, thus addressing fears about an expanded deficit.
The Congressional committee charged with making cuts of $1.2 trillion is now to be called upon to add another 33% in cuts, when the original figure presented a daunting challenge for them. However, since the proposals were couched in the language of employing veterans, repairing crumbling schools or rickety bridges, it was difficult to turn down such proposals without appearing to be a curmudgeon.
This is basically led to a division of labor between the Republicans.
GOP Presidential candidates on the stump signaled outright rejection of the president's plan. Front-runner Rick Perry claimed that the Obama proposals were
“Like the president’s earlier $800 billion stimulus program, this proposal offers little hope for millions of Americans who have lost jobs on his watch, and taxpayers who are rightly concerned that their children will inherit a mountain of debt,” Perry said in a statement.
Mitt Romney quipped that the proposals were “960 days late” the length of time that Obama has been in office.
The Republican candidates are prospecting in the primary season for Republican votes and therefore they will have scant praise for their future opponent. Like Perry, they will also attempt to compare it with the failed stimulus programs.
The Congressional Republican leadership and particularly House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor have the responsibility on their shoulders and could not flatly reject the program but referred to it as a basis for negotiation.
Cantor responded: "There's a lot of the president's speech tonight I think we could agree on… We reject the all-or-nothing approach the president took tonight." Whereas Boehner countered "The proposals the President outlined tonight merit consideration. We hope he gives serious consideration to our ideas as well."
The House Speaker therefore proposed swift action on proposals where agreement existed, while deferring issues on which disagreement prevailed.
The Republicans are opposing their own reasonability to Obama's reasonability. Obama, in order to win the respect of his political base, cannot agree to let the opposing party carry away all the trophies.
If there was a major point of interest in the Obama proposals it was a line about his willingness to make a modest cut in Medicare. This appears to signal that even amongst liberal ranks, the realization has dawned that some senior citizen entitlement programs have become the major budgetary albatross.