The sequester debate has exposed Washington’s dysfunction and its unique brand of parochialism. But it’s not just the White House and Congress, it’s the Washington press corps, too. The whole town needs to step back, stop talking to themselves and start communicating with people beyond the beltway.
The entire Obama administration is fanning out across the country warning of dire consequences if the impending cuts take place–and nobody seems to care. Republicans are bashing the White House for not offering any serious proposals to cut spending even though spending as a percentage of GDP is falling. And the press is still covering the story of who came up with sequester in the first place, as if it matters.
Obama, for his part, has shown a willingness to compromise including reducing the costs of Medicare and Social Security. However, he’s focusing on the pain of the sequester while downplaying the deal he’s willing to cut for fear of alienating his liberal base. Progressives already distrust his negotiating savvy and would sharply oppose any cuts to entitlements.
Republicans, on the other hand, deny that Obama is willing to compromise because they know that a deal will require increased revenue, something unacceptable to the Tea Party congressmen who are holding the GOP hostage. For all of their tough talk, neither Boehner nor McConnell has the power to enter into substantial negotiations without some give from their right flank.
The D.C. press, for its part, is busy covering itself and the inevitable but irrelevant finger pointing. A major story for two days has been Bob Woodward’s accusation that the sequester originated with the White House and the revelation that he’s angry because of a perceived slight by an administration flack. What brave journalism!
Obama needs to lay off the fear tactics, worry less about offending his liberal base and make his case to the American public that he has a plan for long-term debt reduction that includes both spending cuts and increased revenue. Republicans need to reel in their right wing, explain to them that they just lost a national election and that the country wants action, not ideology. And the press needs to quit navel gazing, ask serious questions about the President’s plan and hold the Republicans responsible for not coming to the negotiating table.