Updated: February 11, 2013 | 5:12 p.m. February 11, 2013 | 3:45 p.m.
The two faces of Barack Obama: deft statesman and ruthless partisan. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
Mark this day down. Remember it as an example of how President Obama deftly positioned himself as both a courageous leader willing to defy his liberal base and a ruthless partisan who won’t.
For the pure politics of it, the president’s moves Monday explain why Republicans rather than Democrats are likely to be blamed in the short term for ugly budget fights. Taking a longer view, however, Obama must worry about how historians will view days like this if the next president inherits a fiscal mess.
Here’s what happened:
First, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, reflecting the sentiment of liberal Democrats, dismissed the fiscal mess in a TV interview. “It’s almost a false argument to say we have a spending problem,” she told Fox News Sunday.
Recognizing that Pelosi put Democrats at odds with public polls showing a majority of Americans worried about the debt and deficit, White House press secretary Jay Carney undercut her on Monday. “Of course, the president believes that we have a spending problem,” he said.
Score one for courage.
In the same briefing, Carney said that Obama would not support increasing the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 as a way to reduce spending. This about-face is the political equivalent of Obama taking his ball and going home midway through a playground game.