In Bob Woodward’s new book The Price of Politics he’s critical of Obama’s handling of budget negotiations with Congress. On fact Woodward reveals is that Senator Kent Conrad, the self-styled “budget hawk” whose Senate Budget Committee hasn’t produced an actual budget for the last three years, instructed President Obama not to endorse the Simpson-Bowles plan.
What was Conrad’s brilliant strategy in doing so? He thought that if Obama endorsed it, Republicans would reflexively oppose it. What actually happened? Obama opposed it, and Republicans still opposed it anyway.
Outgoing Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., acknowledged Tuesday that he advised President Obama against embracing the recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission and said he did so because he feared an endorsement from the Democratic president would cause House Republicans to “reflexively” oppose the panel’s blueprint for deficit reduction.
“I said to him that if he just endorsed Simpson-Bowles, that House Republicans would then in all likelihood oppose it, and that it would be better, in my judgment, for him to make the case for why a comprehensive plan along the lines of Simpson-Bowles was needed,” Conrad told reporters Tuesday.
The counsel that Conrad provided came to light in the book “The Price of Politics” by veteran journalist Bob Woodward. Woodward’s book is critical of Obama’s leadership on deficit issues and in particular his strategy for dealing with Congress. Many pundits have criticized Obama’s decision to stop short of endorsing the December 2010 blueprint produced by the White House-appointed fiscal panel. Some view that decision as suggesting a lack of resolve by the president in tackling the long-term budget challenges.
Conrad has always positioned himself as a centrist and a moderate. The guy in the middle working to get both sides at the table. When the curtain is pulled back, however, he’s revealed as the hack that he is.
As I’ve long said, the budget process in Washington DC will be better off for not having Kent Conrad involved with it.