Why Conservatives Are Angry at Obama's Debt Speech

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Yesterday, while people who dislike discussing deficit reduction proposals were gawking at Joe Biden nodding off during Obama's speech, serious conservatives were fuming over the actual substance of the President's vision--or perceived lack of one.

As with some of the President's other heavily-hyped addresses, outrage seeped from conservative newspapers, magazines, and politicians immediately after the last sentence of the speech was uttered. Yes, the president did call for $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next twelve years, but conservatives counter that he only offered "taxes on the rich," "no specifics," and a "prolonged embrace" of progressive partisanship.

Here, we've compiled a list of conservative objections to the speech:

1. It Was Fluff Intended to Promote 'Illusory Spending Cuts and Very Real Tax Hikes'  Rightward Beltway newspapers The Washington Times and Washington Examiner didn't pull any punches when describing why they felt the speech was so disingenuous. The Examiner's Timothy Carney singled out the president's "odd" definition of tax reform:

Usually, the term implies eliminating tax deductions and credits ("broadening the base") and lowering rates. For Obama, there are no rate cuts--in fact, there are rate increases. But more revealing, the only "loopholes" he wants to kill are those with which he disagrees.

2. It Was Cynical, Targets the Wealthy, and Doesn't Make 'Tough Choices' Conservative beltway-focused magazines The Weekly Standard, National Review, and The American Spectator  dismissed the speech as partisan, unspecific, unconvincing and cynical. The Review's Victor Davis Hanson incredulously wrote: "is he so cynical that he understands campaign rhetoric has nothing to do with actual governance, and so he is allowed to say something that he knows in advance that he is not bound to follow?" The Spectator concluded: "He likes the tack of mocking minor cuts, as if he has his eye on major ones. But it is clear that he is not interested in minor or major cuts."

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3. Obama 'Forgot' About His Own Fiscal Commission  There were plenty of reasons for Rep. Paul Ryan to be displeased with how the President singled out his budget plan as "a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can't afford to fix them." Ryan responded by lobbing his own salvo at a post-speech press conference (the president wasn't "building bridges but poisoning wells"). More substantively, he criticized the president for ignoring his own fiscal commission last year but wanting to create a new one this year:

Last year, in the absence of a serious budget, the President created a Fiscal Commission. Then with his budget he disavowed his fiscal commission. He ignored all of its recommendations. Now he wants to delegate leadership yet again to a new commission. How are we to expect different results?

4. Where Was the Mention of Entitlements?  The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times' Andrew Malcom were waiting for the President to offer a meaningful proposal on how to deal with what the Journal described as the "great political challenge" of our time. Obama stayed noticeably silent. Malcom concluded:

The community organizer, who believes he's entitled to a second term based on his record so far in the first term, simply could not bring himself to say that ugly word [entitlement] one single time this afternoon. And that single omission says more about his reelection strategy than all the other words he did say

5. No Plan, Just Gave a Stump Speech  For the majority of America, the 2012 election cycle isn't in full swing. So it perplexes The Washington Post's conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin, syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg and blustery radio host Hugh Hewitt that the president delivered a stump speech devoid of any actual proposals. Rubin said it best:

He didn’t endorse the Simpson-Bowles plan. He did not propose a Social Security fix. He did not provide an alternative to top-down rationing of Medicare. One wonders how the White House thinks this helps the president.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.