WaPo's Milbank to Obama: Skip the Falsehoods and Give Us a Plan


In a surprisingly blunt column, The Washington Post's Dana Milbank says President Obama's big reframing speech yesterday was based on a "falsehood wrapped in a fallacy." The falsehood? The President's claim he has a plausible debt plan ready to go. 

Despite his claim that "both parties have laid out their policies on the table," Obama has made no serious proposal to fix the runaway entitlement programs that threaten to swamp the government's finances.

"My own deficit plan would strengthen Medicare and Medicaid for the long haul by slowing the growth of health-care costs — not shifting them to seniors and vulnerable families," Obama said. "And my plan would reduce our yearly domestic spending to its lowest level as a share of the economy in nearly 60 years."

That's incorrect. As Politifact has pointed out, Obama's claim that he would reduce annual domestic spending to a percentage of gross domestic product not seen in 60 years is true only if you don't count the enormous spending on programs such as Medicare. (Obama presumably means he would cut domestic discretionary spending to a 60-year low, a lesser boast.)

Of more concern is Obama's nonsensical claim that he has a deficit plan that would strengthen Medicare for the long haul. He has called for doubling Medicare spending over the next 10 years, to nearly $1 trillion in 2022. His cuts in the rate of growth amount to just a few percentage points. As The Post's Lori Montgomery has reported, the president's 2013 budget marked "the second year in a row Obama has ignored calls to restructure Social Security and Medicare entitlement programs."

Columns like this tend to get held up as evidence that even liberal-leaning columnists at big media institutions are fed up with Obama. They're percieved as important because of who is writing them as much as the details of what's being said. 

The effect can easily be overstated, but it's not nothing. These columns rarely shape the political political environment on their own, but they do give us a better idea of what it already looks like, suggesting points of tension and frustration. Milbank isn't an administration mouthpiece, but he's not exactly a well-known conservative sympathizer either. This piece indicates that someone who might normally ally with the president on a big-picture policy fight is having trouble buying the president's line.

And that's why in this instance the details matter too. President Obama occasionally pays lip service to the need to cut the debt, but when it comes to the single biggest driver of the long-term debt, Medicare, he's been notably unwilling to put forth credible plans. The administration's defenders like to say that ObamaCare was the president's plan for Medicare. But the law only strengthens Medicare's fiscal position if you ignore its double counting. And as the program's own actuaries have repeatedly indicated, the delivery system and administrative reforms called for by the health law are big bets with long odds, at best. The health provider reimbursement cuts the president has called for don't even cover the cost of fixing glaring glitches in Medicare's payment system, much less make a dent in the nation's long-term obligations.

More generally, the $4 trillion debt-reduction plan the president wants people to remember is built on a trillion dollar war spending gimmick and is packed with tax hikes. 

Yet despite this parade of underwhelming non-plans, the president continues to insist that it's only the other team that's at fault. Yesterday's speech was supposed to be about what he would do in a second term. But it ended up revealing more about what he wouldn't. 

NEXT: Ronald Bailey Heads to Rio +20 Earth Summit

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. WaPo’s Milbank to Obama: Skip the Falsehoods and Give Us a Plan

    A Ten Year Plan.

    1. Ten Years Gone

  2. I would think that there are some people in the Democratic Party who care about the party as an institution and see the damage Obama is doing to it. He already presided over the worst off year elections for the Dems since the 19th Century. And he seems to have learned nothing from that defeat. If he doesn’t get his act together, the Dems could be looking at being completely out of power come next year and with the numbers in the Senate still going against them in 2014.

    1. Luckily for them, all of their policies will still be enacted by their mortal enemies.

      1. It’s a great scam, isn’t it?

      2. How is that different from when they controlled things? They are like the perfect example of “the best way to predict what a bureaucracy will do, is to imagine it is run by a cabal of its enemies.”

    2. Oh, the Clinton wing is getting theirs. And in such a way that they can simultaneously say “we were good Democrats” and “we told you so”.

      1. I love how Clinton keeps “accidentally” kicking Obama in the balls and then apologizing for it only to do it again the next week.

  3. Looking at some of the reactions to Obama’s Ohio speech yesterday (too long, rehashing crap, etc) makes me wonder if the legacy media is gearing up to give him the heave-ho.

    1. Its all timing, sage. They are putting their furrowed-brow, chin-tugging pieces on the record now, before it really matters, so that when they peel off and jump back in the tank, they can point to these and crow about how fair and objective they are.

      1. Yes it is timing. They will jump the moment they think for sure he is a loser and no a moment sooner. It is all about narrative. If they go down with Obama, then they have to admit that he lost because liberal policies suck. But if they refuse to vote for him, then they can claim that he only lost because he wasn’t liberal enough and the liberals stayed home and the media turned against him.

        Remember, the ideology is never wrong. It only fails because the people implementing it are not sufficiently pure.

      2. Yeah I thought that too. The legacy media won’t slob his knob as much when it tastes like defeat.

        1. It is funny and pathetic how obvious they are. I remember the morning of election day in 08, the New York Times finally ran a fair minded article on Guantanamo Bay. There was nothing in it that was new. It could have been published any time for at least a year or more before then. But only when they knew it was going to Obama’s problem did they finally admit that well maybe closing it won’t be so easy after all.

    2. I can’t stand the way his fucking head head ping-pongs between the teleprompters. God damn dude, learn to fucking memorize a fucking speech.

      1. Or at least use note cards and practice a little.

  4. Poor Obama. Even his media sycophants are turning on him. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving person.

    1. Nobody likes a loser.

    2. Nah. This is the part of the kabuki play where left journalists rag on Obama for a little while to hide how in the bag they are for him. Then once they endorse him enthusiastically–orgiastically, even–they can point to this a say: “See, I’m not a partisan hack. SEE!”

      1. This is a common narrative, but the truth is, they would never, ever turn on their messiah for a second if they felt he was kicking ass. So though you are 100% correct (it’s not like they aren’t going to vote for him), the fact that they feel he’s weak enough to do this to him is an indicator all in itself.

        1. Or they are spinning an underdog narrative, combined with a “if only he would come back to his core leftist principles, America would love him again” headfake.

          1. I seriously doubt they have the intelligence or even cunning for that. We’re talking about mindless sheep here. They’re just doing what partisans do.

            1. No one of them has to be smart enough–or even smart as a group–as long as the flock can turn as one. It’s like a hive mind, only all together they are actually dumber than individually.

              There’s no way something like JournoList isn’t still in operation. “Dana, you go tell the truth about bad-mouth Obama and next week you can go back to sucking on his throat yogurt spigot.”

              1. I can’t argue with that. And yeah, we just have to wait until one of them, being the fuckups they are, reveals what the new JournoList is. They’re amazingly predictably stupid like that.

                1. Right after the convention when he gets the usual and short lived convention bounce, Obama will be the “Come Back Kid”.

          2. Narrative Sugar Free. If they know he is going to lose, they have to abandon him so they can say he lost because he wasn’t liberal enough. Sometimes people have to be sacrificed for the cause.

        2. You are exactly correct. If Obama were up in the polls right now, Milbank would be talking about the age of Obama and the need to amend the Constitution to make him President for life.

    3. He’s flailing, and even WaPo is starting to recognize that they’ll look like fools for pretending otherwise.

  5. “I like to hunt. Because I like to wear safety orange.”

    1. “What, this isn’t formal enough? Cheney wore this to the Auschwitz memorial.”

  6. Now, now, Dana, Pres. Obama clearly does have a plan:

    1. So did King Cnut, to hold back the tide. We all can come up with “plans” to do anything – John, say, has a “plan” to seduce Christina Hendricks – but there’s little or no reason to expect our “plans” can be

      1. The Cnut story does not mean what you think it means.

    2. Is it like the Cylons plan? Always talked about, never articulated, and seemingly the random delusions of the writers’ demented minds?

      1. All will be revealed.


  7. Milbanks’s just another bootlicking lefty-media droid.

    He has to write a column like this once a quarter, so he can point to something as evidence that he’s not partisan.

    But there is a kernel of truth to the idea that the media hacks went so far in the bag for Obama in 2007-2008, they’re ticked off that he’s proving them to be the dupes they are.

    They’ve spent the past five years attacking Obama’s opponents as nothing but a bunch of angry, sloped-foreheaded stock characters from Mississippi Burning.

    Now that it’s becoming clear that Obama is a con man, and people like Dana Milbank were the marks all along, the media is doing a collective wig-out.

    1. But there is a kernel of truth to the idea that the media hacks went so far in the bag for Obama in 2007-2008, they’re ticked off that he’s proving them to be the dupes they are.

      They’d been building this guy up since the 2004 convention. Why do you think he hangs with with celebutards so much–it’s because the press deemed him a “rock star” in 2004 and he’s never had to be serious about leading.

      He’s the first “celebrity” president we’ve had in the age of the internet, and it’s no shock that like a lot of celebrities, he’s basing his worth on how much people adore him rather than how good of a leader he really is.

      He was never really a “rock star,” though. He was a proxy for a lot of whites to assuage their guilt by voting for a black man, and they convinced themselves that looking the part and saying the right things would be more important than leading, and being realistic about the state of the nation and where it needed to go. That’s as much of an indictment of these media boot-lickers as any other factor.

  8. I’m still waiting for Obama to go through the budget “line by line”.

    *breaks out laughing*

    1. He has put us through line after line about the budget, though. For those who remember the classic videogame, Obama is the fucking Leisure Suit Larry of the budget.

      1. Yeah, I had that game on my Apple IIc.

        Damn, I’m old.

    2. I remember when he said that during one of the debates in ’08, I ended up practically rolling on the floor with laughter. It was only after I realized that the average voter was probably dumb enough to buy that shit that I stopped laughing. And became incredibly depressed.

  9. So what’s with the outfit? Is afraid that he’ll get shot?

    The Short, Happy Life of Dana Milbank. When he finally grows the balls to quit sucking on Obama’s cock, he’s thinking there’s a 6.5mm Mannlicher pointed at his head…

    (See Hemingway if you haven’t.)

  10. The media is ‘all in’ on Obama. All public displays that contradict this are head fakes. The media knows that if not now, never will their dreams have even a chance of being realized. Milbank’s column is designed for a follow up, ‘POTUS takes my advice’ column.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.