As the sequester turns

President turns on the charm after cuts failed to scare the public

Google it. The “mainstream” media are absolutely atwitter at President Obama’s “charm offensive” – meaning that he’s finally willing to talk to Republicans in private rather than just ranting about them in public.


Following months and months of refusing to negotiate cuts in federal spending, why is the president suddenly a supposedly changed man?

After cynically closing the White House to tours at the start of tourist season to save a mere $18,000 a week, perhaps President Obama felt both the public and the media were turning on him. The polls show it, with his approval ratings falling.

And his normally lapdog media haven’t blindly defended him as usual. Commentator Charles Krauthammer guessed that the media “could no longer cover for him without being entirely embarrassed.”

Maybe the president was seeing that his dire predictions about the automatic “sequestration” cuts in federal spending that went into effect March 1 haven’t properly frightened Americans into his arms:

“A plurality of Americans think federal spending cuts will have no effect at all on them or their families, according to a new McClatchy-Marist Poll,” McClatchy reports. In addition, “as many Americans think the cuts will have no effect or a positive effect on the overall economy as think the cuts will hurt the economy, the survey found.”

In the poll, 49 percent said the cuts would have no impact on them, and another 10 percent said the impact would even be positive.

Moreover, McClatchy writes, “Generally, voters by 53-37 (percent) prefer to reduce the deficits by mostly cutting government programs and services rather than mostly by raising taxes.”

In short, so far the president is losing the public relations battle, and is out of step on how to reduce the deficit. Closing the White House – and purposely
ruining the plans of tourists in the hope that they’d be more mad at Republicans than at the president – hasn’t done Mr. Obama any good.

It certainly won’t win the president any fans if he continues living it up in the process.

Unlike many, this editorial page has been loath to criticize the Obamas for their vacations. Granted, the trips have been a little unseemly in these tough financial times, and at times the Obamas vacation apart, raising the cost to taxpayers. But living in the fishbowl of the White House is good cause for an occasional getaway, as is the pressure of the presidency. We don’t begrudge them time off and time away.

In addition, at times criticism of the Obamas’ vacation spending has been a little disproportionate – leading some, no doubt, to wonder if the country’s first black family to occupy the White House is being singled out for enjoying the fruits of the land’s highest office.

But with the sequester, things have changed. Now would not be a good time for opulent getaways – even though it appears the pillows are being fluffed for another summer at Martha’s Vineyard.

Whatever they do now will and must be set against the president’s decision to furlough the seven tour staff at the White House – or, as Charles C.W. Cooke writes, the cost of Air Force One ($181,757 per hour); the executive chef ($100,000 per year); the three full-time White House calligraphers ($277,050 per year for the trio); and the chief of staff to the president’s dog ($102,000 per year).

As Cooke notes, “Transporting the president cost $346 million last year.” He couldn’t find $18,000 a week out of that budget? How about one less campaign trip, since the president is obviously term-limited?

Instead, the president appears to be choosing cost-cutting that hurts the public the most. Polls show maybe it’s not hurting enough, and now he has to actually negotiate with Republicans.

Future extravagances, in a time of budget cuts that seem aimed for their maximum impact on the public, will be all the more outrageous coming, as they would, after much populist rhetoric from this president about caring about the middle and lower classes.