Maybe they’re not the geniuses in the West Wing that everyone thinks. Plouffe is gone, Axelrod is gone, Gibbs is gone – so maybe it’s not surprising that the White House is engaging in a rare message redo.
Buffeted by criticism that its sequester doomsday scenarios were apocalyptic fantasies and that it has been dithering while the ship of state grandly sinks, the White House has changed its tone while reaching out to Republicans to at least offer up the appearance that it is serious about governing the country.
President Obama hasn’t hosted a sequester sob story event since he showed up in Newport News just over a week ago to proclaim that Republicans were marooning aircraft carriers in their docks at the Naval Station and assert that the sequester “could cost tens of thousands of jobs right here in Virginia.”
Meanwhile, his aides have been walking back various disaster scenarios outlined during the days before. In a piece published today, Politico’s Donovan Slack – at the risk of a severe tongue lashing from the press office, no doubt – listed several Obama sequester claims “shot down by fact checkers.”
Capitol janitors, it turns out, wont be reduced to penury and prosecutors aren’t going to empty the jails. And the White House overstated claims that seniors will go hungry, teachers are getting pink slips, and children won’t get a Head Start.
Meanwhile, a formerly diffident Obama is now ringing up Republicans and asking for dates.
He’ll have a cozy dinner tonight at Washington’s cozy Jefferson Hotel with a handful of Republicans he thinks he can woo on issues like immigration, including Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Rob Portman of Ohio, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and John Hoeven of North Dakota, according to reports.
He’ll travel to Capitol Hill next week to meet with the Republican – as well as the Democratic – House and Senate caucuses, the White House announced this afternoon. “The President asked for the opportunity to speak to the caucuses about the priorities on his legislative agenda,” the White House said.
Last weekend, he found the Capitol Hill Bat Phone where he’d thrown it behind a couch in the Blue Room last year and began dialing up Republicans.
No doubt, some of this is for show. You can just hear Obama in six months saying, “I tried to reason with these lunatics, but it failed.”
But don’t underestimate the possibility that Obama, in league with Republicans petrified that Hispanics and soccer moms don’t love them, can get Congress to pass legislation centering on issues like immigration and gun control, and that he is not simply planning to bide his time until a Democratic takeover of the House in 2014.