Michael Shear has a piece in this morning’s New York Times that argues the “Obama budget escapes liberal backlash for now.” In it, he references a call with David Plouffe and Ken Baer yesterday evening for “liberal bloggers” to “brief them on the budget’s details and reassure them of the president’s commitment to their causes.”
One liberal supporter who listened to the call described it as “mostly boring,” an indication that the president’s base was not particularly upset about the budget.
I was on that call, and while “mostly boring” is rather accurate given the limited questions and stage managed nature of these calls, the idea that the call was “an indication that the president’s base was not particularly upset” is ridiculous.
Perhaps Mr. Shear and his establishment media colleagues approach press briefings differently, but those of us on the call were there to ask questions about the administration’s just released budget, not to howl in outrage.
That said, not a single question was framed in a way I’d consider supportive of the administration’s approach. Baer and Plouffe were challenged repeatedly on the tradeoffs they presented over and over again as “shared sacrifice” and “tough choices” for the President who, we were reminded, was once a “community organizer.”
As the initial questions were asked, a theme emerged of bloggers questioning just how “shared” that shared sacrifice really is. A prime focus of those queries was why cuts to essential programs like heating assistance for the working poor while the wealthy face limited “sacrifice,” indeed. [cont'd.]
When I asked about a claim made earlier in the call that DoD funding was being cut while, in reality, the amount is $22 billion more than appropriated this year – and whether the administration would provide guarantees that no future “supplementals” would be used to add to the $118 billion allocated separate from the DoD budget for what are called “Overseas Contingency Operations” (our wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan), the response was, shall we say, less than satisfactory. David Swanson, who listened to a tape of the call describes it well here:
Christina O’Connell with FireDogLake, always the best blog that manages to maintain access to these calls, asked about the pretended cuts in military spending and about the ongoing war spending and whether there would be additional off-the-books supplemental bills. Plouffe replied by bashing Bush’s practice of using supplementals despite Obama having broken a promise and used them for the past two years, but did not promise not to go on using them for a third year. At the same time Plouffe meaninglessly bragged about a decrease in war spending in the 2012 budget. He did not reply at all to the first half of O’Connell’s question, regarding the pretense that overall military spending is being cut while in reality it is going up. He did not explain that the theoretical future cuts are only proposed as cuts to wish lists while still allowing the budget to increase year by year.
Since my attempt at a followup was cut off with a “final question,” I’m not at all clear how Mr. Shear can have any idea what this says about my response to such Plouffery or to the budget itself, but my unheard reaction was considerably different from Shear’s later summation of the call as “polite but skeptical.”