I tell you what, coming from a man that was part of a White House and from a party that seems to care about nothing else but playing politics, this is pretty rich. But that appears to be the line of attack the Republicans are going to use to defend Paul Ryan's draconian budget proposals. As Paul Begala rightfully points out here, Ryan's proposal is "intellectually dishonest" and just a means to dismantle our social safety nets while giving tax cuts to the rich that don't need them.
I don't care for a lot of the cuts that the Democrats have agreed to and think they're going to harm the economy and am not happy that they haven't fought harder to push back against them. I was glad to see President Obama look like he was finally willing to draw a line in the sand on some of their demands. And I was glad to see him finally use his bully pulpit to talk about the unfairness of giving tax cuts to the rich while demanding that the working class take the hit to balance our budget. It's long overdue IMO.
And I'll ultimately judge him by his actions and not by his words. When we've already been through things like getting assurances that he was fighting for a public option in the health care bill, but was privately making deals behind the scenes where it had already been negotiated away, forgive me for being skeptical to say the least about whether any of us should trust that he'll stick to his guns until we see how all of this pans out in the end.
That said, I was glad to see President Obama finally looking like he understands how fed up the public is with the redistribution of wealth in America, and it amazes me that Republicans honestly think that supporting Paul Ryan's really extreme budget proposal is somehow good for them politically. If the Democrats don't hang that budget proposal around their necks, they'd be foolish. And Andy Card and the rest of them can whine about the politics of this all they want, but they're making their bed with supporting Ryan, so they'd better learn to live with the repercussions of it now.
Card whines here that the president “didn't provide leadership” because he waited for Ryan to put this proposal out there before he came out there and laid down some markers with what he'd like to see in the budget himself. He praised Ryan for his leadership and said he's provided “a great service” to the country since President Obama didn't embrace the Simpson/Bowles deficit commission debacle that never found enough votes to get any kind of concensus. He's done a “great service” alright... a great service in leading the Republican Party right off a cliff by alienating a huge part of their base – senior citizens and those nearing retirement age once enough of them get a look at his proposals.
Transcript via CNN below the fold.
COOPER: Let's talk about the "Raw Politics" of this all.
Political contributor and Democratic strategist Paul Begala and former George W. Bush White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.
Paul, what is this about election 2012, or was this the opening salvo in the bargaining that is no doubt to come about the budget?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, a little of both. When the president comes downstairs in the morning and has orange juice, it's about 2012 and reelection. Every president cares desperately about being reelected.
But I was really struck. I thought Congressman Ryan he is missing a chance here. I thought the president went out of his way to be fair. Of course his speech was rooted in principle. This guy has got real principles, where he's not going to allow Paul Ryan and the Republicans to end Medicare as we know it in order to pay for tax cuts for the rich.
He's not going to squander the kinds of investments we have to have to make the economy grow, but we have got to tackle the deficit. And it really just means it's actually -- it's hard to do but it's easy to analyze. We have to raise taxes and cut spending. And if anybody tells you, you only have to do one of those things, that person is intellectually dishonest. Paul Ryan, intellectually dishonest. He's pretending that we can cut our way out of it and he's not telling you that he actually wants to make these cuts so that we can give spectacular tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires. It's not going to fly politically.
COOPER: Andy Card, not only he was pretty tough on Paul Ryan. He was tough your former boss, former president, essentially blaming your administration for all the financial problems that this administration is now facing.
ANDREW CARD, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, first of all, I thought the president's speech was more political than it was policy.
COOPER: How so?
CARD: Well, the first 2,700 words centered around setting the stage for a political discussion rather than setting the stage to really reform our government and bring deficits under control.
And then what he did offer was a lot of gimmicks. He even talked about it in the context of 12 years when Washington works on a 10-year rule for most budgets. And that's the old Byrd rule. It's what been around for a long time. So he's asking us compare apples, the Ryan plan, to oranges, the Obama plan.
And really they're not even the same, they're not even in the game. And so I think the president really is kind of misleading. He's got a lot of gimmicks. He's not looking to solve the problem and he really pushes the burden onto future political generations, not on the political generation that is serving in Washington right now. So I think that it was not the best policy objective for the president to have. Instead, it was a political objective that he put forward.
COOPER: Paul, you didn't hear much of anything really about Social Security, which is obviously a major issue moving forward in terms of economics. BEGALA: Well, it is, but it's actually not a huge driver of the deficit. Social Security, I think -- well, not -- it doesn't matter what I think -- but even the actuaries say overall is in pretty good shape. A little minor changes in Social Security.
The real problems are this debt and deficit and Medicare is a huge driver of that, but so is the lack of revenue. So is the fact that we keep cutting taxes for rich people, like me and President Obama said like himself as well. The notion, by the way, that 12 years is too long to cut the spending, but Mr. Ryan's proposal, our viewers should know, does not come into balance for 50 years.
It's a Trojan horse. It's not about the deficit. The president tried to make an honest cut at the deficit by saying, duh, we have to cut spending and raise taxes. Mr. Ryan wants to eliminate Medicare as we know it. The "Wall Street Journal" newspaper said it would essentially end Medicare in order to pay for tax breaks for billionaire polluters. That's not a deficit approach, that is a reordering of our national values to say that billionaires need more welfare and senior citizens on Medicare need less health care.
CARD: Paul, don't you see it amazing though that here we are, the president is actually debating Paul Ryan's proposal, when the president should be leading the country? Instead he's responding to Paul Ryan, rather than offering real tough solutions that will make a difference. And Paul Ryan did a great service. He changed the debate. He said let's talk about really bringing fiscal discipline and let's have an honest debate about it. The president, you know, starts addressing Paul Ryan but he does it in the context of politics rather than policy.
BEGALA: He can't do enough to stop this Paul Ryan budget. It would destroy Medicare to give tax breaks to the rich. And Mr. Ryan, he's a charming guy. Everybody says he's a nice guy.
CARD: He's a smart guy.
BEGALA: He's ruthlessly intellectually dishonest.
BEGALA: His plan, OK, we all agree doing nothing is a disaster, right, Andy? Doing nothing soars the debt and deficit.
Ryan's plan is worse than doing nothing. The Congressional Budget Office looked at this and said, compared to doing nothing, the Ryan plan increases the debt even more over the first 10 years because he front-loads all these tax cuts for the rich. You're not a serious deficit hawk if you're talking about more tax cuts for the rich. You're just not. It's like Charlie Sheen talking about drug rehab.
CARD: Congressman Ryan and the Republicans have said let's have an honest debate about reforming government, changing the way we spend, changing our entitlement programs, solving the problem in the short term so that we don't have a long-term burden that's going to be placed and change the whole nature of a country. I think that Congressman Ryan has done a great service. The president didn't provide the leadership that he should have provided back in December (AUDIO GAP) Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson got together and proposed something very, very real and he could have embraced that. And that's what the debate could have been about.
But instead Paul Ryan is the one that steps forward and the president is responding and quite frankly he's not living up to the challenge that Paul Ryan put out there.