"The TEA Party is Winning":

So says E. J. Dionne, Jr., who notes:

Take five steps back and consider the nature of the political conversation in our nation's capital.... Washington is acting as if the only real problem the United States confronts is the budget deficit; the only test of leadership is whether the president is willing to make big cuts in programs that protect the elderly; and the largest threat to our prosperity comes from public employees.


The media are full of commentary on President Obama's "failure of leadership." There is some truth to the critique but not in the way the charge is typically made.

Obama is not at fault for his budget proposals.... In his State of the Union address, Obama made a good case that budget cutting is too small an agenda and that this is also a time for more government - yes, more government - in areas that would expand opportunities and strengthen the economy.
There are three separate assertions that concern us here.

1) The national conversation has turned (thanks, perhaps, to the TEA Party) to the importance of cutting the costs of government, especially entitlements and payments to government workers.

2) The President believes that the fact is that we need more, not less, in terms of government spending and involvement.

3) The media is unfairly hurting him by framing this as a failure of leadership instead of an attempt to lead, but in the opposite direction.

Let's compare that with a news story from the NYT, on the President and the Wisconsin situation:
"Wisconsin Puts Obama Between Competing Desires"

The battle in Wisconsin over public employee unions has left President Obama facing a tricky balance between showing solidarity with longtime political supporters and projecting a message in favor of deep spending cuts to reduce the debt.
There's not much in the article to suggest that "deep spending cuts to reduce the debt" is actually a "desire" of the President's (nor even "projecting a message" in favor of such cuts). It does mention his two-year freeze on pay raises, but that is clearly not a deep cut.

What it sounds like is that Mr. Dionne is right: the editors at the NYT are trying to "help" the President by portraying him as "leading" in a direction he doesn't want to go. In that way they may be hoping to shore him up against what they see as his own failure to understand and lead the national conversation; but they're masking his real attempts to lead in the other direction.

That's neither wise nor fair, even to President Obama. He was elected on a big-government platform, and it is clear that he believes in it, and has steadily argued for a larger government role in American society and the economy.

This is the political question of a generation for the United States of America: how to handle both the current economic disaster and the long-term problems of impossible entitlements, debt, and un- and under-funded government pensions. What we do now may save or doom us; the decisions made now will set a course that will be increasingly difficult to reverse by future governments should that course prove to be wrong.

Previous Congresses and administrations are at fault for us being here, by the same token: we wouldn't be facing these problems if they had not made promises to the sky on entitlements and pensions, while at the same time spending all the cash they were supposed to be saving up to pay for those promises.

Let's have the argument fairly. It may be that the TEA Party will win, or it may be that the President's party will win, but there is a clear difference between them.

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