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Why Obama was forced to give today's deficit speech

April 13, 2011 |  2:22 am

Obama campaigns in Philadelphia 4-6-11

If President Obama is in political trouble, just wait a minute. He'll give a speech. He thinks speech-making is his best skill and clearly prefers campaigning over presidenting at a desk.

Oh, look! Obama's giving another speech this afternoon.

It's at George Washington University, the administration's new favorite homefield speech-giving place where Obama had Hillary Clinton talk about foreign policy a few weeks ago.

Obama has looked distracted in recent weeks. He launched a war in Libya while taking his family around South America. For more than a week Obama had Clinton do the public explaining and take the "Say What, a Third War?" heat for the guy who beat her in the 2008 Democratic primaries by arguing against such irrelevant foreign conflicts.

Nine days after the first Tomahawks blew something up in Tripoli, a besieged....

...Obama finally talked about how it was suddenly in America's interest to end the 42-year reign of a notorious bad guy. Obama said he was worried that Kadafi would kill innocent civilians, although worse threats to civilians go on every day in countless lands without U.S. military intervention.

This includes Syria, where scores have died to government bullets in recent weeks and Obama only sent out his press secretary Jay Carney to strike fear into the heart of President Bashar al-Assad by issuing two stern warnings.

Last week when the United States government faced an historic shutdown, Capt. Quixote was off in Philadelphia taking on windmills before speaking at anJohn Boehner and Harry Reid talk Budget 4-7-11 Al Sharpton gala in New York.

When Democratic Sen. Harry Reid and Republican House Speaker John Boehner worked out a last-minute budget deal, Obama himself made the late-night announcement to try to take ownership.

The next day he made a brief but weird visit to the Lincoln Memorial to explain to some startled tourists who hadn't asked that the place would have been closed down but for his budget brokering.

Here's Obama 's problem: Once again, he's lost control of the capitol's political narrative.

The bully pulpit is a powerful presidential tool -- if the chief executive is talking of relevant things. But Obama keeps sidetracking himself into all these areas of society that he so wants to fix, even though there are worse problems elsewhere.

For a long time Obama talked of little but healthcare and financial reforms, while polls showed Americans wanted jobs. He got his healthcare bill, but dozens of Democrats got unemployed from Congress.

When Americans wanted an explanation for a war over Libya's sand, Obama was urging Brazil to drill off its shores and toasting every presidente within sight.

As Americans realized the Democrat majorities had not written a budget for the current fiscal year when in control throughout 2010, Obama was calling for more college educations and denouncing schoolyard bullies. Now, bullies used to be handled by detention or, if necessary, big brothers. But Obama sees a federal government role there at home and in Benghazi.

Whenever the president acknowledges the budget deficit and the $14+ trillion national debt, he says yes, yes, of course, we have to cut waste. He then proceeds to provide a long list of things we need to "invest" more in like education, bridges, green energy and protecting "the most vulnerable" in our society.

Obama doesn't realize how many millions of Americans consider themselves vulnerable today, even with jobs and a home for now. In Philadelphia when one man dared to ask about the rising price of gas for his commuObama visits the Lincoln Memorial 4-9-11te, the president suggested he trade-in for a new car. This from the green president who took a 17-vehicle motorcade of limos and SUVs to admire clean cars last month. Not even one symbolic electric job.

The result of such disconnection is that last week there was no-nada-zip talk about his investing. The parade had moved on without its presidential drum major.

Every word of Washington's political discussion was about cuts in the budget, exactly and only what Republicans wanted to debate. In a town where all-powerful presidents have set the political agenda, the speaker from Ohio, who gets mocked for his emotions and tan, was driving the discussions with well-mannered aplomb.

Hence, again the perceived need for another Obama speech today. He'll try to recapture control by adjusting the subject: Yes, yes the deficit is bad, though not as bad as you-know-which party makes it out to be. We do need to trim it with some cuts over time. But what we really need is more money to get stuff done.

You know, those rich people with the money to create new jobs? Let's take some more from them in taxes and Social Security assessments. Not from you! From them. Who's gonna oppose somebody else paying more taxes?

Obama's recent speeches have been lo-cal on substance, heavy on swell-sounding calls for someone to do something -- such as increase domestic oil production. The media reports. The people listen. They nod. And very few point out that, wait a minute, the guy talking is the one who can make that happen. So, why isn't he doing instead of talking all the time?

Obama now hopes to redirect the debate off budget cutting onto what he thinks is safer political ground for him, end tax breaks for the wealthy few. Even though, starting tomorrow, he'll be hitting up that same crowd of Richie Riches for the $1 billion he wants to buy a second term for four more years of this.

UPDATED: Obama's ultimate budget deficit speech: 5,187 words and not one of them is 'entitlements'

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Bradley C. Bower / Bloomberg (Obama campaigns in Philadelphia, April 6); Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg (Boehner and Reid, April 6); Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press (Obama at Lincoln Memorial, April 9).