Posted by DrJohn on 24 February, 2013 at 8:43 am. 1 comment.

woodward obama

Brian Beutler at TPM insists that Bob Woodward “biffed” in his recent WaPo article in which he asserts that Barack Obama moved the goalposts in the sequester discussions.

Beutler casually dismisses Obama’s mendacity as to the origination of the sequester

Woodward’s book about the debt limit crisis includes the fairly inconsequential detail that the idea of using sequestration (as opposed to other policy options) as an enforcement mechanism originated in the White House.

Overt presidential lies are not really inconsequential. And lie Obama did.

The finger-pointing began during the third presidential debate last fall, on Oct. 22, when President Obama blamed Congress. “The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed,” Obama said. “It is something that Congress has proposed.”

Obama was not alone in his dishonesty

The White House chief of staff at the time, Jack Lew, who had been budget director during the negotiations that set up the sequester in 2011, backed up the president two days later.

“There was an insistence on the part of Republicans in Congress for there to be some automatic trigger,” Lew said while campaigning in Florida. It “was very much rooted in the Republican congressional insistence that there be an automatic measure.”

So what has Beutler all in a tizzy? This sentence:

In fact, the final deal reached between Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2011 included an agreement that there would be no tax increases in the sequester in exchange for what the president was insisting on: an agreement that the nation’s debt ceiling would be increased for 18 months, so Obama would not have to go through another such negotiation in 2012, when he was running for reelection.

Beutler says Woodward is “dead wrong.”

Is Woodward dead wrong? Let’s turn to Beutler himself, who says

It’s true that John Boehner wouldn’t agree to include new taxes in the enforcement mechanism itself, and thus that the enforcement mechanism he and Obama settled upon — sequestration — is composed exclusively of spending cuts.

And that was the final deal. So on one hand Beutler says no tax increases in the sequester was not in the deal and then immediately admits that it was part of the deal.

Obama took the agreement because McConnell basically provided Obama cover from having to deal with the debt ceiling debate during the 2012 election.

Further, Beutler says

Obama and Democrats have always insisted that a balanced mix of spending cuts and higher taxes replace sequestration.

That’s true, but that wasn’t the deal. And it’s the deal that Woodward described, not what democrats wanted or what they really meant.

And then this:

First: “Unless a joint committee bill achieving an amount greater than $1,200,000,000,000 in deficit reduction as provided in section 401(b)(3)(B)(i)(II) of the Budget Control Act of 2011 is enacted by January 15, 2012, the discretionary spending limits listed in section 251(c) shall be revised, and discretionary appropriations and direct spending shall be reduced.”

Key words: “deficit reduction.” Not “spending cuts.”

As if spending cuts could not be deficit reduction.


Democrats balked — the balance was off — but all of that just goes to show that a tax increase has always been a likely element of a replacement bill, and Republicans know it.

A “likely element.” It’s not there, doggone it, but it was “likely.”


But the entire purpose of an enforcement mechanism is to make sure that the enforcement mechanism is never triggered.

This is plain whining. They all agreed to the deal. Besides, it was Obama who promised that there would be no “easy off-ramps” and that he would veto any attempts to eliminate those cuts. Now that Obama is up against them, he promises that the world will end should they not be prevented.

Sorry, Brian, that’s not just “likely”, it’s absolutely unambiguous.

Beutler’s article is a painful read. Woodward did not “biff.” Beutler biffed.

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