More than ever President Barack Obama is positioning himself at the center of American politics — if, indeed, there is a center or strong center anymore. He is now pressuring both parties to exercise some give and take so that there can be not just a debt ceiling deal but a substantive one:
President Obama on Monday morning challenged Republicans to live up to their demands to cut the nation’s deficit and address its long-term debt by enacting spending cuts, revenue increases and changes to entitlement programs.
“Now is the time to deal with these issues,” Mr. Obama said at the start of a news conference at the White House. “If not now, when?”
The president also called on Congressional Democrats to be open to a deal that would makes changes to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, which some parts of the caucus have strictly opposed.
Mr. Obama said he is continuing to push lawmakers for “as large a deal as possible” and said that Republicans should work toward the goal that they have said they wanted for months.
“I’ve been hearing from my Republican friends for quite some time that it is a moral imperative to tackle our debt and our deficit,” Mr. Obama said. “What I’ve said to them is, ‘let’s go.’”
Mr. Obama said he would not consider a short-term, stop-gap solution to raise the debt ceiling. “This is the United States of America. We don’t manage our affairs in three month increments.”
The news conference, his second in less than two weeks, came just hours before the president was to meet for a third time with Congressional leaders in an effort to reach a deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. The decision to take questions from reporters again reflects a new approach to press relations in recent months, as the president seeks to use the bully pulpit in a way that Republicans cannot.
Mr. Obama’s tone was a stark contrast to his previous press conference…
Specifically, he was more sympathetic to GOPers and a bit more assertive with his own party:
But on Monday, after a series of face-to-face negotiations over the past week, the president described the Congressional leadership in more sympathetic ways. He called them “sincere” and said they are in a “difficult” position as they attempt to sell a compromise to their rank-and-file members.
“Part of what the Republican Caucus generally needs to recognize is that American democracy works when people listen to each other; we’re willing to give each other the benefit of the doubt; we assume the patriotism and good intentions of the other side, and we’re willing to make some sensible compromises to solve big problems,” Mr. Obama said. “And I think that there are members of that caucus who haven’t fully arrived at that realization yet.”
The president’s tone about his Democratic allies changed as well. Mr. Obama appeared eager to demonstrate that the speaker’s difficulties with conservatives was matched on his own side by his willingness to talk tough to his own liberal constituency.
Politically, that gives Mr. Obama an opportunity to present himself to independent voters as a leader who is interested in getting something done in gridlocked Washington. He said he is “sympathetic” to the concerns of his liberal supporters but said their priorities cannot be achieved without tackling the nation’s debt.
“If you’re a progressive who cares about the integrity of Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and believes that it is part of what makes our country great, that we look after our seniors and we look after the most vulnerable, then we have an obligation to make sure that we make those changes that are required to make it sustainable over the long term,” he said.
Be sure to read THIS POST discussing John Avlon’s take on the negotiations.
Here’s a clip from his press conference: