The president's real error wasn't failing to make cuts as fast as he predicted. It was making any sort of pledge to begin with.
Under fire from Republicans for a promise he won't be keeping about cutting the deficit, President Obama might consider emulating Franklin D. Roosevelt, who found himself in a very similar bind eight decades ago. In October 1932, Roosevelt told a crowd in Pittsburgh that he would balance the budget and cut government spending by 25 percent in his first term. But when he got in office, the only way to combat the Depression was to increase spending.
It was the right course for governing. But it presented Roosevelt with a real political challenge when he was running for a second term and returning to Pennsylvania. He asked speechwriter Sam Rosenman how to handle questions about the broken promise.
"Deny you were ever in Pittsburgh," responded Rosenman.
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Today, as Obama tries to explain his own pledge "to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office," he might be tempted to just deny. The only problem with that is that he made the pledge not as a candidate but as president. And it came in the East Room of the White House at the opening of his Fiscal Responsibility Summit on Feb. 23, 2009. It would be a little hard to deny he was ever in the White House.