Obama Fires Up His Base

President delivers angry, partisan attack on GOP before laughing crowd of reporters

AP Images
April 3, 2012

President Obama on Tuesday levied a partisan broadside against Republicans and their policies before a sympathetic crowd of reporters who frequently applauded and laughed along.

The Republican Party, he said, is seeking to "impose a radical vision" on the U.S. that is "antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility."

The president spent the majority of his speech before the Associated Press luncheon at the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention in Washington, D.C., attacking the GOP budget resolution proposed by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.).

The president accused Republicans of promoting a failed theory of "trickle-down" economics driven by large tax cuts for the wealthy financed at the expense of federal spending on the middle class.

The GOP vision, as outlined in the Ryan budget, was "nothing but thinly veiled Social Darwinism" and "a Trojan horse designed as a deficit reduction plan," the president said.

"I don't think people fully appreciate the nature of [the GOP] budget," he said.

History has proven "their theory" wrong, Obama argued, before chastising Republicans for refusing to "show some humility and moderate their views."

"Instead of moderating their views even slightly, the Republicans running Congress right now have doubled down," he said, describing Ryan’s budget as "so far to the right it makes the Contract with America look like the New Deal."

Though he did not mention Ryan by name, Obama did call out GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney, who has praised Ryan’s budget as "marvelous."

"He even called [the Ryan budget] marvelous," the president said of Romney. "Which is a word you don't often hear when it comes to describing the budget. It's a word you don't often hear generally."

The crowd of reporters erupted in laughter.

Obama has used the word "marvelous" several times in the past.

It was a marked departure from the president’s rhetoric on Monday, when he declined to answer a question about a recent remark of Romney’s.

"It's still primary season for the Republican Party," he told reporters Monday at the White House. "I will cut folks some slack for now because they're still trying to get their nomination."

But Obama spared no jab in Tuesday’s speech, calling Ryan’s proposal to transition Medicare to a market-oriented "premium support" system a "a bad idea [that] will ultimately end Medicare as we know it."

After spending the majority of the 45-minute speech attacking Republicans, Obama offered only a fleeting defense of his own budget proposal—the most expensive of its kind in United States history—as the so-called "balanced approach" to deficit reduction he favors.

Obama’s remarks appear to channel those of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who told Ryan and members of the House Budget Committee in February: "We’re not coming before you today to say we have a definitive solution to that long-term problem. What we do know is we don’t like yours."

While acknowledging that the debate over the size and role of government is "one of the most important debates that we can have," the president urged the press to report on the debate in a manner that better reflects his own views.

The failure of the two parties to come to an agreement on these issues, Obama charged, was largely due to the GOP—"a party that will brook no compromise"—and its refusal to agree to his sensible, centrist positions.

"As all of you are doing your reporting, I think it’s important to remember that the position I'm taking now on the budget and host of other issues—if we had been having this discussion 20 years ago or even 15 years ago—would have been considered a squarely centrist position," he said. "What's changed is the center of the Republican Party."

"Often times there is an impulse to suggest that if the two parties are disagreeing then they are equally at fault and the truth lies somewhere in the middle," he added.

Ryan, who was in Wisconsin on Tuesday campaigning for Romney, preemptively criticized Obama for trying to portray Republicans as "some kind of villain in a cartoon."

Other Republicans were quick to slam the president’s speech.

"President Obama might have more credibility on these matters were his plan not rejected 0-414 in the House and, the year before, 0-97 in the Senate," said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.

Over the past two years, federal lawmakers have cast 503 "yes" votes for Ryan’s budget, and zero in support of the president’s.

House Speaker John Boehner said the president was promoting the very sort of blind partisanship for which Obama criticizes Republicans.

"Instead of reaching across the aisle to enact the changes needed to restore America’s prosperity, the president has resorted to distortions and partisan pot-shots, and recommitted himself to policies that have made our country’s debt crisis worse," Boehner said in a statement.