President Obama Takes to the Bully Pulpit

In his push for higher taxes on the rich and to avoid the fiscal cliff, Obama is back in campaign mode.

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Like other presidents before him, Barack Obama is using a two-pronged attack — a public campaign through his bully pulpit and a private lobbying effort in Washington — to push his opponents into a corner and, in this case, win congressional approval for a budget deal by year's end.

Republicans aren't happy about it. "The election is over," says Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell. He wants Obama to buckle down to serious negotiations with members of Congress instead of launching public-relations offensives. Adds Mike Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner: "The target of the president's rallies should be the congressional Democrats who want to raise tax rates on small businesses rather than cut spending."

The White House is orchestrating a series of events this week to rally public support behind Obama's goal of raising taxes on the rich. It's part of his plan to avoid automatic spending cuts and tax hikes scheduled to take effect on January 1, which some economists say could trigger another recession.

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On Friday, Obama is planning a rally at a toy factory in suburban Philadelphia area to underscore his ideas and pressure Republicans to support his budget proposals.

President Barack Obama smiles in front of Christmas decorations as he listens as Mexico's President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto, not pictured, speaks prior to their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Nov. 27, 2012.
President Barack Obama smiles in front of Christmas decorations as he listens as Mexico's President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto, not pictured, speaks prior to their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Nov. 27, 2012.

Also on tap are two events at the White House Wednesday. The first is a meeting between Obama and middle-class Americans "who would see their taxes go up if Congress fails to act to extend the middle class tax cuts" enacted under President George W. Bush, a White House spokesman said. The second event Wednesday is an Obama meeting with more than a dozen leaders of big corporations in the Roosevelt Room in an effort to show corporate support for a compromise on the budget. Participants will include Frank Blake, chairman and CEO of Home Depot; Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO, Goldman Sachs Group; Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of Coca Cola, and Marissa Mayer, CEO and president of Yahoo, according to the White House.

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On Tuesday, Obama brought small business owners to the White House to highlight his budget agenda.

Despite the Republican complaints, using campaign-style public relations techniques such as these are common in hotly contested legislative debates. Every recent president has used them, with mixed results. Bill Clinton set up a campaign-style "war room" at the White House complex to win legislative victories on various issues. George W. Bush used a combination of public campaigning and private lobbying to build support for partial privatization of Social Security, an effort which failed.

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  • Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com or on Facebook and Twitter.