Buzzfeed finds this video clip from the 2008 town-hall presidential debate that should provide the context for Team Obama’s attacks on Paul Ryan and his budget reforms of entitlement programs. Should, of course, does not mean will, as in “will the media remind people of this Barack Obama campaign promise?” In response to a direct question from NBC moderator Tom Brokaw, Obama promises that he will have an entitlement-reform plan by the end of his first term:
The punchline for this sight gag? Obama had a golden opportunity to fulfill this pledge. All he had to do was adopt the budget proposed by his own panel on deficit control, to which he appointed Erskine Bowles as co-chair. If you wondered why Bowles compared Ryan’s plan favorably to the nonsense plan Obama used instead of the Simpson-Bowles plan, now you know. Even if the Republican-controlled House would have blocked it, Obama would have had the high ground on this point.
Instead, Obama will attempt to demonize Ryan for the Bowles-described “sensible … honest” plan the Republican running mate introduced in the leadership vacuum left by Obama. He may score some points on Ryan, but Republicans can point to Obama’s own abdication and unkept promise on the issue as a reason why the incumbent is the fundamentally unserious candidate. Will it work? We’ll see in less than 90 days.
Update: Pop quiz, hotshots — who said in January 2009 that we can’t kick the entitlement can down the road? Oh, let’s not always see the same hands:
OBAMA: Real problem with our long-term deficit actually has to do with our entitlement obligations and the fact that, historically, if our revenues ranged from between 18 and 20 percent of GDP, they’re now at 16, it’s just not sustainable. So, we’re going to have to craft a—what George Stephanopolous called a “grand bargain,” and I try not to use the word grand in anything that I say, but we’re going to have to shape a bargain. This, by the way, is where there are going to be some very difficult choices and issues of sacrifice and responsibility and duty are going to come in, because what we have done is kick this can down the road. We’re now at the end of the road, and we’re not in a position to kick it any further.