I have long contended that public policy issues are as complicated as they appear because the giants of Capitol Hill like it that way, particularly the giants of the left. Bills can be written more simply. Decisions can be phrased with a certain lucidity. Yet, if they were, the electorate would mull them over and, after a cup of coffee, make a decision on them. As things stand today, with talk of budget imbalance and of esoteric matters such as "sequestration," voters scratch their heads, blink their eyes and walk away. Who gives a hoot? It is time for my morning nap, perhaps, two naps.
This is another anti-democratic way that Washington politicians have bootlegged our legislative process. Make policy so confusing to normal people that they will take little or no interest in it. It is all a game reserved exclusively for the political class. Al Gore in his new book, prosaically titled "The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change," bangs on about the power of lobbyists and giant corporations in shaping legislation — do you know anyone who sits on more corporate boards than Gore? Has he considered the unwieldy nature of the legislation in the first place? Debt piled atop debt that even Warren Buffett cannot conceptualize. Sequestration, indeed — why not segregation or constipation? It is a geek to me.
Then there is another of Washington's ways, lying. Or merely indulging in double talk until it reaches the point of lying or at least of deceiving. Both Republicans and Democrats do that all the time, though the number one Democrat is showing himself to be a master in the art. Now, however, he is going over the top. I believe, in his current row over sequestration, he has misstated the truth so shamelessly that he is in danger of destroying the one thing he as a politician needs the most, credibility. Once that is gone, he will have critics and even friends raising doubts about what he says on matters vast and puny.
The White House and the president have claimed that the Republicans have raised the present hullabaloo over sequestration. It was their idea, according to the White House and the president. That struck me as odd because, according to my recollection in the summer of 2011, the White House devised the idea of sequestration to ease both Republicans and Democrats into a deal enabling them to raise the debt ceiling — remember the debt ceiling? Furthermore, if memory serves, included in the 2011 deal was a provision to bar any further tax increases. The president himself endorsed the idea. Actually, in his third debate with Mitt Romney he specifically said, "The sequester is not something I proposed." No, "It is something that the Congress proposed."
Now he is continuing to misstate the truth, but in so doing he casts doubt on Bob Woodward's latest book, and that has aroused Woodward. Says Woodward, "My extensive reporting for my book, "The Price of Politics," shows the automatic spending cuts [sequestration] were initiated by the White House and were the brainchild of [Jack] Lew [at the time White House chief of staff and now Obama's nominee for secretary of the treasury] and White House congressional relations chief Rob Nabors ... " And more: "Obama personally approved of the plan for Lew and Nabors to propose the sequester to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. They did so at 2:30 p.m. July 27, 2011, according to interviews with two senior White House aides who were directly involved."
President Obama, you are being watched. I would not resort to such tricks typical of a community organizer but not so easily resorted to by a president. Too many people are watching. Bill Clinton could advise you on this. It is not wise to play cute with the historic record.
President Obama has a problem on Capitol Hill. He is not trusted. The Republicans do not trust him and Democrats are wary. My guess is that this administration is going to find the years ahead painful.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor-in-chief of The American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. He is the author of the book "The Death of Liberalism." To find out more about R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.