Peggy Noonan puts her finger on why Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie have been able to make recent speeches on fiscal responsibility that were so compelling:
Everyone knew they meant it. Everyone knew they’d been living it.
She quotes this absolute gem from Christie, as he tells the tale of addressing a convention of firefighters after he’d proposed curtailing some of their benefits and rolling back a 9% pay increase:
As Mr. Chrisie recounted it: “You can imagine how that was received by 7,500 firefighters. As I walked into the room and was introduced. I was booed lustily. I made my way up to the stage, they booed some more. . . . So I said, ‘Come on, you can do better than that,’ and they did!”
He crumpled up his prepared remarks and threw them on the floor. He told them, “Here’s the deal: I understand you’re angry, and I understand you’re frustrated, and I understand you feel deceived and betrayed.” And, he said, they were right: “For 20 years, governors have come into this room and lied to you, promised you benefits that they had no way of paying for, making promises they knew they couldn’t keep, and just hoping that they wouldn’t be the man or women left holding the bag. I understand why you feel angry and betrayed and deceived by those people. Here’s what I don’t understand. Why are you booing the first guy who came in here and told you the truth?”
He told them there was no political advantage in being truthful: “The way we used to think about politics and, unfortunately, the way I fear they’re thinking about politics still in Washington” involves “the old playbook [which] says, “lie, deceive, obfuscate and make it to the next election.”
That last sentence—“lie, deceive, obfuscate and make it to the next election,” is a nice summary of Obama’s fiscal strategy. Charles Krauthammer gives a good description of it here:
…[F]or all its gimmicks, this budget leaves the country at decade’s end saddled with publicly held debt triple what Obama inherited.
A more cynical budget is hard to imagine. This one ignores the looming debt crisis, shifts all responsibility for serious budget-cutting to the Republicans – for which Democrats are ready with a two-year, full-artillery demagogic assault – and sets Obama up perfectly for reelection in 2012.
Let’s hope not.