President Obama is keeping his distance from the congressional "super committee" as it moves toward its November 23 deadline for finding a way to deeply reduce the deficit.
White House officials say Obama doesn't want to get drawn into the 12-member panel's internal deliberations because the factions are so polarized and the president doesn't think he could forge a far-reaching compromise at this time. Beyond the committee, Obama doesn't want to participate in another prolonged fight with congressional Republicans over his plan to increase taxes on the wealthy. Similarly, he doesn't want to risk disappointing fellow Democrats if he agrees to cut popular entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. [Check out a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]
Obama got deeply involved in negotiations with Congress over raising the debt ceiling several months ago, and the struggle was so nasty and messy that his job approval ratings suffered.
Republicans accuse him of abdicating leadership, but Obama is convinced that GOP legislators won't compromise on much of anything because they don't want to give the Democratic president a victory with the general election a year away. White House officials add that the solution to the debt crisis--a combination of tax increases and spending cuts, in Obama's formulation--aren't difficult to figure out but are simply a matter of political will. And Obama thinks the super committee members need to find that will on their own. "Our proposals are out there," a senior Democratic strategist told me. "It's up to the committee to act." [Read about the Tea Party's plan to cut $9 trillion from the debt.]
Meanwhile, Obama is going his own way, focusing on promoting his job-creation measures, issuing executive orders to bypass Congress and help people deal with the downturn, and traveling to Europe this week to discuss international economic and other issues.