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Obama Manufactures a Crisis

October 07, 2015
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Of all Barack Obama’s qualities, among the most striking is his combination of self-righteousness and lack of self-awareness. Consider his news conference Friday. Mr. Obama attempted again to shift responsibility for the weakest recovery in recorded U.S. economic history onto Republicans. “We would be doing even better,” the president said, “if we didn’t have to keep on dealing with unnecessary crises in Congress every few months.”

Yet Mr. Obama now threatens to veto the annual defense-authorization bill unless Congress increases nondefense spending and allows the transfer of terrorists from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which the president has pledged to close. Since the defense bill passed 269-151 in the House and 71-25 in the Senate, it is the president who is manufacturing an unnecessary crisis, this time to get more domestic spending and to empty Guantanamo.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid will back Mr. Obama in this disruptive maneuver. “My Democrats, our Democrats, have stated without any question, if it comes time that we sustain a presidential veto,” Mr. Reid said.

In his news conference, Mr. Obama attacked Congress for the spending caps included in the 2011 budget sequestration that have strictly limited federal outlays. “Both parties,” he lamented, “put in place harmful automatic cuts that make no distinction between spending we don’t need and spending we do.”

But Mr. Obama’s White House advisers were the authors of these spending caps, which he now excoriates as “mindless.” The president maintained Friday that the caps “have been keeping our economy from growing faster,” as if Washington can spend its way to prosperity.

The president also argued that spending ought to go up, because the country’s annual deficit has gone down. “Since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by two-thirds,” he said. Yet the spending caps he’d like to get rid of are responsible for much of that progress, and the deficit remains unacceptably large—$426 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

Mr. Obama demanded that Congress “pass a serious budget” even as Mr. Reid has obstructed Republican efforts in the Senate to take up appropriations bills, forcing Congress to again fund the government with a temporary measure.

The president attacked a handful of Republicans who wanted to shut down the government as leverage to defund Planned Parenthood. “You can’t have an issue like that potentially wreck the entire U.S. economy,” he said. Moments earlier Mr. Obama had threatened his own shutdown: “I will not sign another shortsighted spending bill like the one Congress sent me this week.”

In one of Friday’s eye-rolling lines, Mr. Obama piously demanded that Congress act responsibly by increasing the debt ceiling:

“Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize us to spend more, it simply authorizes us to pay the bills that we have already incurred,” he said. “It is the way for the United States to maintain its good credit rating.” If Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling, he said, “it would have profound implications for the global economy.”

All three statements are accurate. But here’s the kicker: In 2006 then-Sen. Barack Obama led a Democratic effort to defeat a debt-ceiling increase. “Raising America’s debt limit,” he said at the time, “is a sign of leadership failure.” If Mr. Obama wants standing now to lecture on the subject, he might acknowledge that he made a grave error then.

Mr. Obama demonstrated Friday he doesn’t see the contradiction between what he insists must be done and his actions as president. “We can’t just keep on kicking down the road without solving any problems or doing any long-term planning for the future,” he said.

But he has done nothing to fix the coming bankruptcies of Social Security (in 2035), Medicare (in 2030) and Social Security’s disability trust fund (next year). Instead he has irresponsibly opposed efforts to reform these programs before they go belly up.

Mr. Obama’s goal in his remaining time in office is to enlarge the federal government with a monumental spending spree. He will try to obtain one by manufacturing a set of continuing budget crises that he will blame on Republicans. His sales pitch will be as tiresome, contradictory and blissfully self-deluded as what he offered last week.

It will be a long 16 months. If this were a Broadway show, it would be time to drop the curtain and fire the cast.

A version of this article appeared October 8, 2015, in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline Obama Manufactures a Crisis and online at WSJ.com.

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