The president stakes out a tough position to open negotiations on the looming set of fiscal deadlines facing Congress.
As President Obama took the stage in the East Room Friday afternoon to make his first statement on the fiscal negotiations that will dominate the next two months, many Democrats held their breath. His reelection secure, would Obama turn back into the conciliatory pragmatist who's so often frustrated his base? Or would he remain the aggressive class warrior he'd played on the campaign trail? It is rather amazing that, as he sets out on his second presidential term, we still don't know which one of these two characters Obama really is.
But on Friday at least, the answer was quickly revealed to be the latter. Obama, backdropped by risers full of random "real people" as props, struck a fired-up tone as he staked out his position. "If we're serious about reducing the deficit, we have to combine spending cuts with revenue," he said. "And that means asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes."
Over the course of his short statement, Obama hit just about every note anxious liberals were hoping for. He said he would not accept any approach that was not "balanced" between cuts and revenue. He pointed out that this is what a majority of Americans want -- nearly two-thirds, according to Tuesday's exit polls, a result supported by plenty of other polls. And he spelled out his biggest point of leverage: "If Congress fails to come to an agreement on an overall deficit-reduction package by the end of the year, everybody's taxes will automatically go up on January 1," Obama noted. To indicate his willingness to sign the right kind of bill, he held up a pen.