Barack Obama has a bad habit of cutting congress loose and letting it wander off without leadership. This congress and the previous one have been infested with lunatics, so whatever issue is at the center of the debate of the moment inevitably gets dragged off into crazyland. Then, at the last minute, the president parachutes in and "rescues" the whole thing before it goes completely off the rails. This hasn't worked so well in the past. Healthcare reform, for example, was allowed to drag out for so long and so many lies, so many panic attacks were allowed to attach themselves to it, that the end product was filled with half-measures and managed to disappoint everyone.
Maybe President Obama thinks this makes him seem like the adult in the room and is, therefore, good politics. But history shows it's not. Or maybe this is a case of a former Senator who can't get his head out of the Senate. Whatever the reason, this approach to leadership has served this president very, very poorly.
Maybe it would work in a saner world -- or one with a less lazy press. When Paul Ryan puts out a budget proposal that relies on wishful thinking and numbers from the Heritage Foundation's Institute of Leprechaun Farts and Rainbows, the media calls it "courageous" and pretends the whole thing is serious. Apparently, all you need to do is attack Medicare, shift the tax burden further away from the top wage earners and more toward the bottom, and use numbers pulled out of your butt to justify it, and you're a freakin' hero.
And so it is that the president will make a speech today in an attempt to rescue yet another debate from devolving into idiocy -- long after it has already made that devolution. In waiting so long to get involved, Obama lets the center creep right. The media always pretends that all arguments have equal worth and Republicans use this to drag debate in their direction. If a leading Republican argued that we had to annex Canada and the Democratic position was that we shouldn't, the media would play the "reasonable, middle-of-the-road" position and wonder if we shouldn't just annex part of Canada -- and there you go, partially annexing Canada has now become a position that "serious" people can now discuss. What was completely insane one week becomes a legitimate position the next. Run far enough to the right and you can get the media to put that "sane and centrist" position anywhere you like -- especially when that media is completely unwilling to call insanity insanity.
Doubt me? Then explain how the Boogeyman -- in the form of "death panels" -- ever became a subject of national debate.
True to form, Barack Obama has allowed Paul Ryan's fantasy-economics porn to rattle around in the media for a while, getting praise from some and suggestions that we only annex part of Canada from others. Eliminate Medicare? Sure! Or maybe just a little. Let's not go overboard here. Should we kill entitlements or just injure them? Serious people want to know and we all agree now that only Communists want to leave them alone.
So maybe this dropping down from the sky to rescue the debate at the last minute isn't really the smartest strategy. Maybe allowing the discussion to veer off into lunacy isn't working all that well. Maybe immediately pointing out the stupid things are stupid things is a little bit better way to go.
President Obama may have some heavy lifting to do today, but that's only because he let the weight pile up for so long.