Yesterday, President Obama launched a scathing attack on the Ryan budget plan, calling it “laughable,” “thinly veiled social Darwinism,” and “antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity.” Republicans in Congress have “doubled down,” the president said, proposing radical cuts to social services and tax breaks for the rich in spite of rising income inequality and the failure of trickle down economics:
“If this budget becomes law and the cuts were applied evenly, starting in 2014, over 200,000 children would lose their chance to get an early education in the Head Start program. Two million mothers and young children would be cut from a program that gives them access to healthy food. There would be 4,500 fewer federal grants at the Department of Justice and the FBI to combat violent crime, financial crime, and help secure our borders. Hundreds of national parks would be forced to close for part or all of the year. We wouldn’t have the capacity to enforce the laws that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the food that we eat….”
Earlier today, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney struck back in a speech to news executives, saying Obama was running a “hide-and-seek campaign” in which “he wants us to reelect him so we can find out what he will actually do.” He began by bringing up the private comments caught on an open mic between President Obama and the Russian president as the most recent example of Obama’s hidden agenda:
“…candidates must be candid about their views and plans. And, in that regard, President Obama’s comments to President Medvedev are deeply troubling. That incident calls his candor into serious question. He does not want to share his real plans before the election, either with the public or with the press. By flexibility, he means that “what the American public doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” He is intent on hiding. You and I will have to do the seeking.”
In response to a question, Romney commented that Obama’s speech was full of “distortions and inaccuracies” too numerous to mention, and he defended the Ryan budget, saying Obama’s plan was “a grab bag of pet projects.”
Many pundits are saying that Obama’s screed and Romney’s rebuttal represent a sort of unofficial kick-off to the 2012 election. New York Times reporter John Cushman writes that the speeches indicate the president and the likely nominee are “fully engaged in the high-stakes enterprise of defining each other in the most unfavorable terms, seven months before the November election.”
To that end, The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein notes that Obama’s strategy is to tether Romney to the radical Ryan bill . Romney is notoriously vague about his own plans, while the Ryan bill, which Romney has emphatically endorsed, is very specific — and the president spent much of his speech enumerating the details.
“Obama is trying to increase the visibility of Ryan’s budget. He’s attacking it precisely because that will make Republicans rally around it. He’s trying to make everyone agree that Ryan’s budget is the Republican agenda. And, ultimately, he’s trying to make Romney answer for it. If the White House has its way, they’ll spend the rest of this year campaigning against Paul Ryan even as they run against Mitt Romney.”
The Post’s Chris Cillizza, while agreeing with Klein’s analysis, wonders if Romney might tack to the right and actually make Obama run against Ryan by taking on the “telegenic, beloved by tea party conservatives,” swing-state Wisconsinite as his running mate:
“Knowing now that Obama is going to go all-out on the Ryan plan, it makes an increasing amount of sense for Romney to not only fully embrace the plan (as he has done) but to fully embrace the man too.
It’s not hard to imagine this thought in Romney headquarters this morning: You want to make the Ryan plan the centerpiece of this campaign? Fine. Game on. That’s a fight we want.”