Obama Calls for $4 Trillion in Deficit Reduction

And decries Republican attempts to change "the basic social compact in America"

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President Obama offered his vision of America's fiscal future in a Wednesday afternoon speech that Politico's Mike Allen predicted would be considered "the first speech of the 2012 campaign." Obama said he wants to trim the deficit spending by $4 trillion over the next 12 years and criticized Republican proposals as "a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can’t afford to fix them." Speaking at George Washington University, Obama said the country doesn't have to sacrifice its ideals to balance its books. He reiterated his State of the Union slogan--Win the Future--when he insisted the U.S. would continue to invest in research and education. The process of cutting the budget requires a scalpel, not a machete, the president said.

Allen explains, "Team Obama wants the American public to see the president as 'the adult in the room,' and views this is a chance for [Obama] to steal beyond-the-Beltway momentum from House Republicans." And indeed, the president said the Republican "vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America."

The critical part of Obama's plan, The Hill's Sam Youngman and Erik Wasson report, is a "debt fail-safe" that would trigger "across-the-board spending reductions" by 2014 if the ratio of federal debt to the country's gross domestic product is not projected to be stable and declining by the end of that decade.

Updates as reactions come in...

Update 2:37 pm.: The Huffington Post's Jon Ward notes that "Obama's statement that even conservatives who he disagrees with have good motives & want to do right thing was also not in prepared remarks." Another bit of ad-libbing was when Obama stuck in "make an effort" just before he said "bridge our differences."

Slate's Dave Weigel writes that "Despite the early liberal panic over Obama 'embracing' Simpsons-Bowles [the plan authored by Obama's deficit commission and proposed many cuts to entitlements that liberals didn't like], he only mentions the deficit commission twice, and never uses the names of its chairmen." Another name not mentioned: Paul Ryan, even though the president spent a good bit of time attacking Ryan's budget. Weigel adds, "this is what Democrats wanted." Sure, Simpson-Bowles is still presented as a third way, but "scorching the opposition has a way of boosting the home team's spirits."

2:43 pm: Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall says Obama's speech was a "good move," as his "core angle in this speech seems to be to focus on the fact that country got deficits under control in late 90s under Clinton and then went off the deep-end again with the Bush binge. Hard to beat the truth." The bad part? That lame "win the future" line.

2:51 pm: Obama showed a bit of tone-deafness, The National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez writes, when he said Ryan's budget "would lead to  a fundamentally different America." Lopez notes that "People are worried the current road is the one that is leading to a fundamentally different America. And it is not a good one."

2:59 pm: The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes scoffs that Obama said "everything must be on the table. And in same speech basically takes Soc Security off the table, rules out extending tax cuts, etc."

The Daily Caller's Neil Munro argues that Obama's speech was vague on the deficit but crystal clear in its criticism of Republicans.

3:09 pm: The speech was "a clear, unambiguous, morally grounded defense of the welfare state," The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn writes. Obama sounds more determined to rollback the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy, but not the middle class, which makes Cohn nervous. But he approves of Obama's proposals to tweak his health care overhaul to further control costs, something Cohn says is "far more serious than what Paul Ryan and the Republicans have in mind."

3:20 pm: As Mike Allen predicted: Reuters' Patricia Zengerle tweets, "Noting this was #Obama's first major speech as a candidate for re-election. He drew sharp contrasts between himself and GOP. #2012"

3:24 pm: Hot Air's Ed Morrissey says the speech failed to meet even his low expectations. "For a budget-cutting speech, it certainly seemed that Obama was a lot more interested in defending spending than defunding government. ... Not only did Obama fail to resurrect his own deficit commission’s plan, he offered nothing specific in response to the specifics Paul Ryan and the GOP have already laid on the table.  It’s almost impossible to present a substantive criticism of the proposal because it contains nothing substantive, an impression that more and more people have of this White House."

3:50 pm: And it looks like Joe Biden's reaction was to fall asleep:

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