Giving up any pretense of wanting to seriously address the nation’s long-term fiscal crisis posed by the growth of entitlement programs, Obama dropped even a meager proposal from last year’s budget that would have reduced spending on Social Security by changing the measure of inflation used to calculate benefits.
Obama’s budget justified his move by stating that he originally made the offer on Social Security as a good faith effort to jump-start talks with Republicans, but given GOP unwillingness to agree to raise taxes in exchange for addressing entitlements, “this year the administration is returning to a more traditional budget presentation that lays out the president’s vision.”
Arguing that his budget document doesn’t include serious entitlement reforms because that isn’t politically feasible right now isn’t much of an excuse. Obama cannot believe House Republicans will agree to more implementation funding for Obamacare; to embrace his $302 billion infrastructure spending proposal; or to rally behind $1.2 trillion in new tax increases. Yet all of those things are part of his budget, along with a myriad of other proposals that won’t see the light of day.
In After Hope and Change, we discuss the 2012 campaign. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney remains in campaign mode. RealClearPolitics offers this excerpt from a press briefing:
ED HENRY: The president was dismissive when Mitt Romney, in the last campaign, said Russia was our number one geopolitical foe. Any regrets about that?
JAY CARNEY: No, because you have a situation where Russia is violating international law because a country that Moscow — a government that Moscow supported was rejected by the vast majority of the Ukrainian people, and because they wanted to determine their own future, because they wanted to be able to make the decision as to their integration with Europe.
They didn’t want to be dictated to by an outside state or an outside authority. I think it’s hardly a demonstration of — it’s not a positive thing for Russia that Ukraine has been moving in this direction. Our whole viewpoint is it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. It is a mistake, certainly, in the long-run for Russia not to accept the fact that Ukraine can, the Ukrainian people should be able to decide for themselves in a democratic manner how they will integrate with Europe, and that doing so doesn’t mean they can not maintain their long, historical and cultural ties to Russia.
The latest Washington Post-ABC News pollconducted Thursday through Sunday finds Obama receiving middling ratings for handling foreign policy as his administration heads into the Ukraine crisis. Forty-seven percent approve of the job he is doing handling international affairs and 45 percent disapprove.
At the start of his first term, more than 60 percent approved of Obama’s handling of international affairs, but by 2012 those ratings had shrunk to less than 50 percent, similar to his overall job approval ratings. His marks bumped up after his reelection in late 2012, but have since receded. While lackluster, Obama receives more positive reviews for handling international affairs than the economy (43 percent approve, 54 disapprove) or implementation of the 2010 health-care reform law (38 percent to 57 percent), according to the new poll.
In foreign policy, Obama would wage a successful war in Afghanistan. He would convince dictators and adversaries why they should bow to his wishes. He would solve decades-long conflicts. American prestige would rise in all corners of the globe. “Instead of retreating from the world,” Obama said, “I will personally lead a new chapter of American engagement.” There would be the “reset” with Russia, the “new beginning” in the Middle East, the end of Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons and so much more. Mr. Obama would practice “smart diplomacy.” After all, he understood things the rest of us did not. And if you didn’t accept his view of the world, you weren’t simply mistaken; you were an ideologue, a hyper-partisan, a dullard, perhaps a fool, and/or someone whose thinking belonged to bygone era. Watch the contemptuous way the president dismissed Mitt Romney in a presidential debate on the topic of Russia — despite the fact that events have proven Romney right and Obama wrong.
And that’s the point, isn’t it? Our relations with nation after nation – from Afghanistan and Iraq to Russia and China, from Turkey, Jordan and Pakistan to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, from Japan, Taiwan and South Korea to India and Australia, from Honduras to Brazil, from Poland and the Czech Republic to Germany, Great Britain, Canada and more – are worse now than they were when Mr. Obama was sworn in as president in 2009. I’m not asking people to measure Mr. Obama against a standard of perfection; I’m asking them to measure him against his own promises, his own speeches, his own words.
To peer into the conservative media and blogosphere as it covers Russa’s invasion of Crimea is to risk a fatal dose of schadenfreude. There are reports about how Sarah Palin totally called that Putin would invade Ukraine (she will be on Fox News tonight to remind us), about how Mitt Romney was unfairly mocked for calling Russia the greatest “geopolitical threat” to the United States, about Hillary Clinton’s “reset button” gaffe. Even the Liberal New Republic (tm) has admitted that Mitt Romneywas right about the Russians and their ambitions.
Romney really did maintain a more cynical long-run view of Russia than Obama did. Obama saw Russia as a declining power that he could do business with, as he did with the New START treaty. Romney, as he laid out in his pre-campaign book No Apology, saw Russia as a recovering power. Its ”rediscovered ambition for superpower status,” he wrote, “is fueled by its massive energy reserves.” This wasn’t as sustainable as China’s free-enterprise empire strategy, but it was an empire strategy, and that was enough to get spooked about.
In After Hope and Change, we note that the 2012 campaign will not look good in hindsight. A case in point is the president’s dismissive attitude toward the issue of Russia — which now seems particularly unfortunate in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In 2012, I wrote at National Review Online:
At a $20,000-a-plate fundraising event on April 29, President Obama said: “But when you’ve got the leading contender, the presumptive nominee, on the other side suddenly saying our number one enemy isn’t al-Qaeda, it’s Russia — (Laughter.) — I don’t make that up. (Laughter.) I’m suddenly thinking what — maybe I didn’t check the calendar this morning. (Laughter.) I didn’t know we were back in 1975. (Laughter.)”
A few days later, the BBC reported:
Russia says it is prepared to use “destructive force pre-emptively” if the US goes ahead with controversial plans for a missile defence system based in Central Europe.
The warning came after the Russian defence minister said talks on missile defence were nearing a dead end.
Moscow fears that missile interceptors would be a threat to Russia’s security.
But the US and Nato say they are intended to protect against attacks from Iran or North Korea.
“A decision to use destructive force pre-emptively will be taken if the situation worsens,” chief of the Russian defence staff Gen Nikolai Makarov said.
UKRAINE SITUATION NOT GOOD - Reuters: “Armed men took control of two airports in the Crimea region on Friday in what the new Ukrainian leadership described as an invasion by Moscow’s forces, and ousted President Viktor Yanukovich surfaced in Russia after a week on the run.” [Reuters]
PRESIDENT OBAMA JUST NOW: …[W]e are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian federation inside of the Ukraine.”
2012 DEBATE FLASHBACK: Obama to Romney on Russia: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”
For Obama administration officials, Vladimir Putin is a concern but not a threat. Any talk of renewed Cold War-like Russian-American rivalry, they say, is reckless and counterproductive.
“This is a world where we need to work with the Russians,” a senior State Department official said on Tuesday. “This is not about the United States versus Russia.”
For Republicans, Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign declaration that Moscow was Washington’s “number one geopolitical foe” is being proven correct. Now is the time, they say, to confront Putin.
“Romney’s analysis of the Russian threat was actually spot on,” said Nile Gardiner, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and former Romney adviser. “That has been demonstrated amply over Ukraine, Syria and Russia as well.”
The 2012 election has been revisited before. In November 2013, just over a year after Obama defeated Romney by a four-point margin, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found Romney leading Obama by the same margin, 49%-45%, in an “obviously hypothetical” rematch. In YouGov research conducted from February 6th-7th, we went about it in a slightly different way, asking people who voted for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama whether they would do it again. We found an ostensibly similar picture: 90% of people who voted for Romney would do it again, compared to only 79% of Obama voters who would.
Clearly Romney fares better, although he had fewer voters to begin with. As a proportion of the voters each of them actually received in 2012 (66 million for Obama and 61 million for Romney), the GOP candidate ends up with 55 million votes retained to Obama’s 52 million. Not exactly a wipeout. It’s also unclear for any poll that hypothetically revisits 2012 how much it says about renewed hope for Mitt Romney – who has notably been liberated from the scrutiny of a presidential campaign – rather than about dissatisfaction with an incumbent president who has spent the last year defending his administration over leaks, scandals and Obamacare roll-outs.
Amid continued pessimism about the economy and direction of the country, 59 percent of Americans say they are disappointed in Mr. Obama’s presidency (including 37 percent who are very disappointed); 40 percent are satisfied. Much of this discontent comes from Republicans and independents, but a quarter of Democrats express at least some disappointment.
Disappointment with Barack Obama’s presidency has grown since the summer of 2012, and much of that rise has been among independents. Forty percent of independents say they are very disappointed today, up from 27 percent in August 2012.
Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former House Speaker and CNN host Newt Gingrich are the latest Republicans to urge Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, to veto a bill opponents say would legalize discrimination against gay people.
The measure, known as SB 1062, states that individuals and businesses can refuse service based on their religious beliefs. Opponents have called the measure a license to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Governor Jan Brewer denied reports that she had decided to veto the bill.