Media Softballs to Obama: Why Won't Republicans 'Budge' on Tax Increases?

Six out of seven reporters, called on by Barack Obama at today's press conference, asked a question of the President that came from the left and/or blamed Speaker John Boehner and the Republicans for standing in the way of a deal on the debt ceiling.

Ben Feller of the AP, began the trend of questioning when he asked how Obama was going to deal with Republicans who were "adamantly" opposed to tax increases. CBS News' Chip Reid followed with "isn't the problem the people who aren't in the room, and in particular Republican presidential candidates and Republican Tea Partiers on the Hill?"

 

USA Today's Rich Wolf then took the baton from Reid when he asked: "You keep talking about balance, shared sacrifice, but in the $4 trillion deal that you're talking about roughly, it seems to be now at about four-to-one spending to taxes; we're talking about $800 billion in taxes, roughly. That doesn't seem very fair to some Democrats."

Sam Stein, of the liberal Huffington Post, brought up the high unemployment rate under Obama but only as a rationale to oppose cutting federal spending as he prodded: "With unemployment now at 9.2 percent and a large chunk of those lost jobs coming from the private sector, is now a really good time to cut trillions of dollars in spending? How will we still create jobs?"

The following are all of the questions posed to the President during the July 11 White House press conference:

BARACK OBAMA: Alright, with that I'm going to take some questions, starting with Ben Feller.

BEN FELLER, AP: Thank you very much, Mr. President. Two quick topics. Given that you're running out of time, can you explain what is your plan for where these talks go if Republicans continue to oppose any tax increases, as they've adamantly said that they will? And secondly, on your point about no short-term stopgap measure, if it came down to that and Congress went that route, I know you're opposed to it but would you veto it?...Do you see any path to a deal if they don't budge on taxes?

...

OBAMA: Chip Reid.

CHIP REID, CBS NEWS: Thank you, Mr. President. You said that everybody in the room is willing to do what they have to do, wants to get something done by August 2nd. But isn't the problem the people who aren't in the room, and in particular Republican presidential candidates and Republican Tea Partiers on the Hill, and the American public? The latest CBS News poll showed that only 24 percent of Americans said you should raise the debt limit to avoid an economic catastrophe. There are still 69 percent who oppose raising the debt limit. So isn't the problem that you and others have failed to convince the American people that we have a crisis here, and how are you going to change that?...Do you think he'll [Rep. John Boehner] come back to the $4 trillion deal?

...

OBAMA: Rich Wolf.

RICH WOLF, USA TODAY: Thank you, Mr. President. You keep talking about balance, shared sacrifice, but in the $4 trillion deal that you're talking about roughly, it seems to be now at about four-to-one spending to taxes; we're talking about $800 billion in taxes, roughly. That doesn't seem very fair to some Democrats. I'm wondering if you could clarify why we're at that level. And also, if you could clarify your Social Security position. Would any of the money from Social Security, even from just Chained CPI, go toward the deficit as opposed to back into the trust fund?

...

OBAMA: Sam Stein.

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: Thank you, Mr. President. With unemployment now at 9.2 percent and a large chunk of those lost jobs coming from the private sector, is now a really good time to cut trillions of dollars in spending? How will we still create jobs? And then to piggyback on the Social Security question - what do you say to members of your own party who say it doesn't contribute to the deficit, let's consider it but not in the context of this deal?...Are there things with respect to Social Security, like raising the retirement age, means testing - are those too big a chunk for -

OBAMA: I'm probably not going to get into the details, Sam, right now of negotiations. I might enjoy negotiating with you, but I don't know how much juice you've got in the Republican caucus. (Laughter.) That's what I figured. Alright, Lesley Clark.


LESLEY CLARK, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: Thank you, Mr. President.

OBAMA: Thank you.

CLARK: Have you - you've talked with economists, you said that economists have agreed that a deal needs to be made. Have you worked with U.S. business leaders at all to lobby Congress to raise the debt ceiling? And if so, who are you talking to?...And can you say, as the clock ticks down, whether or not the administration is-

OBAMA: I'm sorry-

CLARK: Can you say, as the clock ticks down, whether or not the administration is working on any sort of contingency plans if things don't happen by August?

OBAMA: We are going to get this done by August 2nd. George Condon.

GEORGE CONDON, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Mr. President, to follow on Chip's question, you said that the Speaker faces tough politics in his caucus. Do you have complete confidence that he can deliver the votes on anything that he agrees to? Is he in control of his caucus?...So your confidence in him wasn't shaken by him walking away from the big deal he said he wanted?

...

OBAMA: Last question. April Ryan.

APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Mr. President, hi. I want to revisit the issue of sacrifice. In 2009, you said that - expect the worst to come; we have not seen the worst yet. And now with these budget cuts looming, you have minorities, the poor, the elderly, as well as people who are scared of losing jobs fearful. And also, what say you about Congressman Chaka Fattah's bill, the Debt Free America Act? Do you support that bill? Are you supporting the Republican bill that is similar to his, modeled after Congressman Fattah's bill?

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Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.