Storified by Brian Empric· Mon, Mar 18 2013 18:27:23
“There's an increasing sense in America now that the facades are intact but the machinery inside is broken.”
“The jobless rate, officially 7.7%, is almost twice that if you include those who have stopped looking, work part time, or are only ‘marginally attached’ to the workforce… Meanwhile, the president is stuck in his games and his history. He should have seen unemployment entering a crisis stage four years ago, and he did not. At that time I was certain he'd go for public-works projects, which could give training to the young and jobs to the experienced underemployed, would create jobs in the private sector and, in the end, yield up something needed—a bridge, a strengthened power grid. He instead gave his first term to health care. And now ObamaCare is being cited as a reason employers are laying people off and not hiring, according to a report from the Federal Reserve.”
“Right now his attention has turned to dinner with Republican senators and meetings with members of both parties on Capitol Hill. He is trying to show, after a hit in the polls, that he can reach out. He's trying to convince America he's capable of making a deal.
“The new engagement may work if in the past few days the president has changed his political style, approach and assumptions. But people don't usually change overnight…”
“It is interesting that almost at the same time as the dinner the president's people had once again begun warning of doom. A blast email from Organizing for Action, signed by Stephanie Cutter, used these words: ‘Devastating,’ ‘obstructionism,’ ‘destructive,’ ‘this is real’… Their whole approach is still stoke and scare—stoke resentment and scare the vulnerable into pressuring Republicans.”
“Barack Obama really is a study in contrasts, such as aloof and omnipresent. He's never fully present and he won't leave. He speaks constantly, endlessly, but always seems to be withholding his true thoughts and plans. He was the candidate of hope and change, of ‘Yes, we can,’ but the mood of his governance has been dire, full of warnings, threats, cliffs and ceilings, full of words like suffering and punishment and sacrifice.”
“Mr. Obama is making the same mistake he made four years ago. We are in a jobs crisis and he does not see it. He thinks he's in a wrestling match about taxing and spending, he thinks he's in a game with those dread Republicans. But the real question is whether the American people will be able to have jobs… He's missing the boat on the central crisis of his second term.”
“Thus, he invited a gang of Republican senators to din-dins at the swank (and legendary) Jefferson Hotel, one of the city’s more discreet (and expensive) gathering places… Indeed, the president picked up the tab, a gesture of generosity or, one might speculate, a tiny deposit on a big investment, the returns of which are already rolling in: the media extrapolation that the president is extending an olive branch to his adversaries in search of a solution.”
“Not to be cynical, but does anyone really suppose that a Republican representative or senator is going to go against the party because Obama gave him a call?”
“It was nothing but a PR move,” says one seasoned insider. “Obama wants to run against obstructionist Republicans. The fact of the matter is, unless something really bad happens, there’s no reason for [Republicans] at this point to cave on taxes. Why would [House Speaker] John Boehner ever cave on taxes at this point?”
“Bottom line — for once a term aptly applied rather than a cliché — the only long-term deficit reduction involves serious entitlement reform, which everyone knows and Democrats don’t want to do... Republicans simply are not going to budge on taxes without real entitlement reform.”
“Democrats will run against those terrible Republicans who refused to raise taxes. Republicans will run on the Democrats’ record of no-growth and out-of-control spending, assuming, that is, they can figure out how to effectively communicate the message that no-growth is connected to Obama policies.”
“Why do presidents get in trouble in their second terms? They think they have a mandate when they don’t. They believe they’re stronger politically than they really are. They’re convinced they can get away with things other presidents couldn’t. They think too highly of themselves personally and act accordingly.”
“Sign number one is the sequester. It’s given Obama numerous opportunities to overreach, and he seems determined to seize all of them… Obama himself led the fear-mongering… But after the House and Senate rejected his vague plan for more tax increases than spending cuts, the president faces the temptation to further overreach and make his worst-case scenario come alive—to vindicate his dire predictions.”
“OFA (Organizing for Action) is unprecedented. No previous president had such an organization or even considered having one. It’s a kind of private political pressure group. Had President George W. Bush set one up, the media would have pounced and demanded he jettison it. But Obama has gotten minimal pushback from the press.”
“OFA is an invitation to crony capitalism and scandal… In reality, it’s a subsidiary of the White House, answers to Obama, is run by his campaign aides, and is empowered by the campaign’s vast database of supporters and Obama followers on Twitter, almost 28 million strong.”
“Obama, from all appearances, isn’t worried about serious second-term difficulties. He’s more full of himself than usual. He’s made it clear he prefers hobnobbing with Hollywood celebrities to spending time with Washington’s political class. And he may be right in thinking his situation, postreelection, makes him immune to the woes of earlier presidents. But maybe not.
“It makes an enormous difference whether he stumbles badly over the next year. If the president is forced on the defensive, Democratic prospects for winning the House in 2014 will evaporate and Republican hopes of gaining the Senate will soar again. And Obama may realize he isn’t exempt from the normal workings of politics, as he once thought.”
“The big story of the moment is that President Obama has suddenly decided to talk with lesser political beings. The famously aloof President who began his second term as if the 2012 election campaign wasn't over is inviting Members of Congress, and even some of its evil Republicans, to lunch and dinner. The question is whether this is merely a tactical feint or if Mr. Obama really wants to accomplish something in the next two years and realizes he needs Republicans to do it.”
“Mr. Obama and his White House aides have made clear that their highest priority is to return Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker in 2015. He and 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina are already mobilizing donors toward that goal, and his inaugural address, State of the Union speech and budget proposals have framed the issues in a way that suggests his priority is a grand liberal finale in his last two years.
“The appearance of a new bipartisanship is perfectly consistent with such a partisan 2014 strategy. The more reasonable he appears today, the better positioned he might be to blame Republicans for failure next year. Independent voters love to see politicians working together, however haplessly, so Mr. Obama may figure he has nothing to lose by dropping his Democrats-only strategy for now. He can always sandbag the GOP again later. In particular, he'd love to carve out deals in the Senate that isolate House Republicans.”
“In my view, there’s little reason to believe that the president wants such a grand bargain—or at least that he wants it enough to jeopardize his second-term political strategy. That plan? To win back the House of Representatives for Democrats, with heavy Obama involvement, by portraying Republicans once again as extremists… Then, having secured control of Congress, the president can consolidate and build on his implementation of the progressive agenda he began in his first term and laid out in his second inaugural and most recent State of the Union Address.”
“By ‘reaching out’ to Republicans, he is attempting to position himself as the ‘reasonable’ party in Washington even if his big ask—additional revenues—is something Republicans already gave him as part of the fiscal cliff deal.”
“The president has shown little appetite for real entitlement reform over his first four years in office, aside from a tweak to the calculation of inflation on Social Security and whispers to John Boehner during the original debt ceiling talks…”
“If the White House is bragging about its unwillingness to concede on entitlement reform, the one thing that could conceivably allow Republicans to be part of a ‘grand bargain,’ how likely is it that the president is serious about getting a deal?”
“Thanks to the FOIA, the transparency issue will be widely discussed this week as journalists, non-profit advocates, academics and others celebrate Sunshine Week with speeches, news reports and features, forums, surveys and panel discussions across the country. The week is timed to coincide with the March 16 birthdate of First Amendment author James Madison, who was also the country's fourth president.”
“A recent study by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University found a 28 percent increase in the number of FOIA suits filed during the last two years of Obama’s first term, compared to the last two years of President George W. Bush’s second term, from 562 to 720 cases.”
“[J]ournalists and activists will keep on fighting for more official transparency because, as the Project on Government Oversight’s Danielle Brian (@daniellebrian) told The Washington Examiner, ‘it is our job to push back and crack open those closed doors that hide corruption, mismanagement and other wrongdoing.’”
“She called transparency ‘the most powerful tool citizens have to ensure government is operating ethically and effectively. Although there are some things that should remain secret, the government tends to err on the side of over-classifying and hiding behind secrecy to keep nosy citizen activists and journalists out of its business …’”
“Those who make the rules should play by them. Especially a White House that lectures the rest of America about the importance of paying your ‘fair share’ of taxes.
“So we were struck by IRS reports that no fewer than 40 aides to President Obama still owe the federal government a combined $333,485 in back taxes… This year, some 312,000 of Uncle Sam’s own employees owe the IRS a whopping $3.52 billion.”
“For all its sermons on fairness, this administration has never seemed too bothered when its own people somehow forget to send the IRS the check they owe.”