Who's doing more to dodge the real issues--disaster in Japan, crisis in Libya, crackdown in Bahrain--President Obama or the Republicans? On Wednesday, freakishly mirror-image memes are emerging in which both liberals and conservatives are painting each other as insufferable, wimpy, lightweight issue-dodgers. It's true: politicians have to do a lot of dumb stuff. It's part of the job description.
Both Congress and the White House have actually been pretty busy this week. House Speaker John Boehner, who was wrangling votes for a bill to prevent government shutdown, put out three press releases yesterday, all on spending cuts. The White House press office put out five: on meeting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. David Petraeus, on economic ties to Brazil, on the U.S. relationship with Central and South America, on the budget, and on Libya. Not too shabby! Let them have their lolcats.
But as we chronicled yesterday, conservatives are pretty mad that Obama has filled out his NCAA basketball tournament bracket instead of focusing on the saving the world 24/7. Their anger hasn't died out yet, with the National Review's Fred Thompson calling for a "Bracket of Leadership," so the president can be enticed to take his real-issues medicine with a spoonful of sugar.
But Obama is now indulging in yet another decadent distraction: an official trip to Rio. The Drudge Report screamed "OBAMA SETS WEEKEND IN RIO! Family will take in the sights...' And back over at the National Review, Jonah Goldberg writes "The president is getting away from his hectic golf schedule to go to Rio this weekend with the family. I wonder if he’ll bump into anyone there who’ll ask him '. . . And what do you do for a living?'" Zing!
These attacks have attracted a defense from Obama's supporters: As the Washington Monthly's Steve Benen writes, "Presidents Can Walk, Chew Gum, and Fill Out Brackets at the Same Time." But the same doesn't go for congressmen, apparently. He adds: "While the president was making a brief appearance on ESPN, the House GOP was organizing an emergency meeting to discuss ... NPR funding. Indeed, for months, the new House Republican majority has wasted time on health care bills they know they can't pass, abortion bills they know they can't pass, climate bills they know they can't pass, and budget bills they know they can't pass."
Several liberal blogs--Talking Points Memo, Daily Intel--have seized on the emergency meeting convened Tuesday about killing funding for National Public Radio in the wake of James O'Keefe's undercover taping of its fundraiser. "House GOP Declares Emergency ... Over NPR Funding" Talking Points Memo scoffs. "GOP: EMERGENCY, EMERGENCY, NPR Is Funded by the GOVERNMENT" Daily Intel writes.
On top of that, the GOP's budget debate dodges the real issues, Matt Yglesias writes. Obama's proposals were too tax-and-spendy, Republicans said, so "the natural question to ask is—what’s the alternative? And Republicans haven’t answered the question. ... You can’t get the deficit lower than Obama’s target while extending the Bush tax cuts purely by defunding NPR."
The only point we'd add to this debate is it is quite possible that both sides are right.