More than the curious “lead from behind” strategy often preferred by Barack Obama, an apt description of his efforts to steer the Super Committee to an acceptable conclusion would best be described as “in absentia.” Both Republicans and Democrats noted with disappointment the President’s absence in a challenge that was always thought to be difficult at best – even doomed, in the opinion of many experienced Congressional observers.
The morning after the announced failure by the committee members to reach a solution, Jay Carney was asked by a reporter if the President had bothered to talk with even one of the twelve Democrats and Republicans on the committee in the closing weeks of their effort. The only answer Carney offered was that Obama had “put forward a plan in mid-September” and by inference, that qualified as a sufficient leadership effort on his part.
The Obama plan that Carney referenced was his half-trillion dollars of immediate government spending coupled with $1.5 trillion of permanent tax increases. Even though the President addressed a joint session of Congress imploring them to “pass this bill” as well as the better part of a month flying coast-to-coast trying to generate support, to date only one small portion of Obama’s plan – a substantial tax credit incentive for employers to hire military veterans – has passed Congress. Even Congressional Democrats have been timid about supporting other provision of the plan, particularly the enormous tax increases.
The ideological divide between Republicans and Democrats was simply too great to just split the difference. Republicans believed it anathema to consider raising taxes, particularly in these most stressful economic times, and according to reports from committee members, the Democrats were “unwilling to agree to anything less than $1 trillion in tax hikes.”