With the deadline to deal with sequestration come and gone, and the continuing resolution to fund the government looming on the horizon, Obama's ability to work with Congress has come under fire as the nation's leadership seems to lurch from crisis to crisis. Republicans say the recent fiscal showdowns are due to a lack of presidential leadership, while Obama insists GOP intransigence is to blame.
Though he ran in 2008 on the platform of bipartisanship and cooperation, Obama's presidency has been wrought with anything but, with nasty fights over everything from healthcare legislation to the Violence Against Women Act. In 2011 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell even said, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
Since Obama's re-election, the confrontations between the president and Republicans, particularly the House GOP, have continued, with the "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and, now, sequestration budget cuts being not being resolved at all.
Republicans say Obama is forgoing the negotiating table to politicize the issues. House Speaker John Boehner called Obama "road show president" who is "far more interested in holding campaign rallies than he is in urging Senate Democrats to actually pass a plan." The Washington Post editorial page has agreed with many Republicans, calling Obama's leadership on sequestration and entitlement reform "minimal." Other commentators like the New York Times's David Brooks and the National Journal's Ron Fournier have also criticized the president for not being able to secure a deal on the sequestration. But some, like Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo,have said that such a critique was "absurd," and that those blaming Obama for Republican intransigence "have to resort to magical thinking to make their criticisms stand up to scrutiny." The Atlantic's James Fallows calls the attacks on Obama examples of "false equivalence" in media coverage. Obama himself summed up the counterargument in his press conference last week when he said, "This has been some of the conventional wisdom that's been floating around Washington that somehow, even though most people agree that I'm being reasonable, that most people agree I'm presenting a fair deal, the fact that they don't take it means that I should somehow do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what's right." Has Obama exercised enough leadership in dealing with Republicans in Congress? Here is the Debate Club's take:
Paul Broun U.S. Representative for Georgia
Phillip Swagel Former assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at the Treasury Department.
Brandon Rottinghaus Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston
Thomas Mann Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution