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I have a lot of respect for Jonathan Bernstein, and his take on Obama’s speech is plausible (haven’t seen it yet!) but he’s just wrong here:

I’m not sure it was the right way to go; my advice beforehand was to pitch it not to liberals, but to deficit idealists — to try to separate deficit idealists from Paul Ryan’s plan by emphasizing the importance of real numbers. I believe that’s something that Obama really had — perhaps still has — a chance to accomplish. He could have tried to appeal to the center by talking about good ideas in various different plans, lauding specific provisions in various liberal, centrist, and conservative proposed budgets. But he didn’t do either of those things. This was a speech, at least as I heard it, to rally liberals to his side as he prepares for the fight to come.

A few things:

  1. The existence of deficit idealists must be taken on faith, as the polls offer no proof of their existence in meaningful numbers. And no, people who want to destroy the welfare state don’t count as deficit idealists. They’d just spend the money on more foreign wars and tax cuts for billionaires, and we’d be in the same place. Why? Because that’s what they’ve been doing for decades. I didn’t think this was too difficult.
  2. The people most skeptical of a budget deal are liberals. Obama has not insignificant sway over liberals (if not over all liberal elites). Ergo, pitching primarily to liberals makes sense. Obama cannot afford to lose them, in this fight or for re-election.
  3. Re Obama highlighting good ideas on the left, right and center: It’s the usual Obama tic, but I guess it didn’t figure in this time. I can see why. Highlighting the good ideas in Paul Ryan’s budget plan would take about twelve seconds. In any event, the tax loophole cutting thing is duplicated in everyone else’s plans anyway. So why even bother?

In any event, let’s get real about this. A lot of elites think that budget negotiations are going to be some sort of compromise between Ryan’s plan and Obama’s modded-out, less-awful Simpson-Bowles thing. They won’t be. The votes for Ryan’s Medicare and Medicaid reforms are not there even in the GOP-controlled House, I guarantee it. The extent to which they foolishly push this is the extent to which the voters punish them next year, mark my words.

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