Obama the Expedient capitulates on Medicare and Social Security

As news began to break late Wednesday that President Barack Obama was contemplating systemic reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (read that, big ol’ cuts to the nation’s crumbling entitlement systems), three new important truths emerged from the swampy morass that is the federal budget debate.

First, with a tip of the hat to Charlie Sheen, Congressional Republicans are Winning. Remember when Obama and his Pennsylvania Avenue spin posse were demanding a clean vote on the debt ceiling? Remember when Obama wagged his finger at Paul Ryan at a White House press conference, lecturing the House GOP’s budget brainiac over the details of his plan to save Medicare?

Yeah, uh, hey listen, you can forget all that.

Like Obama’s pledge to end the war(s), end the Bush tax cuts, try terrorist detainees in civilian courts and on and on and on, the president has also now cut and run on his sanctimonious demagoguery about fighting the Ryan plan, fighting Medicare reform, fighting those who would — wait for it — save Medicare from bankruptcy. Now Obama not only wants to tackle Medicare, he wants a piece of Social Security, too, something not contemplated even by the “hated” Ryan Plan.

I’m not sure whether Obama saw a ghost (did the spirit of Jimmy Carter’s foregone second term whisper warnings to him in the Map Room?) or whether he saw the one pollthat shows him losing to a generic Republican candidate.

But now — somehow, someway — Obama too wants to save Medicare from insolvency and the nation from the fiscal brink.

If this column were interactive, you’d be hearing “Ode to Joy” right about now.

This gives rise to the second truth illustrated by the president’s Medicare capitulation: Obama the Idealogue has given way, at least for the time being, to Obama the Expedient. Put in lay terms, Barack Hussein Obama very badly wants four more years as leader of the free world, and he will do just about anything to salvage that opportunity.

Obama is pulling a full Clinton, triangulating his base in order to appeal to independents who think that he bites as president, undermining his party in Congress, reversing the dogma that defined his candidacy in the first place, all to avoid becoming a member of the nation’s growing class of the unemployed on that fateful day in January of 2013.

Obama apparently cherishes the Brass Ring more than his principles, at least within an 18-month window of his re-election.

Third, Obama’s base acceptance of the need to reform entitlements in order to curb a runaway deficit changes the national debate on this trickiest of topics in transforming ways. Whether or not Republicans agree with all the other stuff that’s part of Obama’s deficit plan, the president has conceded the argument on the central issue — an issue that was to have been the Democrats’ “ace in the hole” next November.

How can Obama and the Democrats scare Grandma and Grandpa if they, too, favor cuts to Medicare and Social Security?  They can’t.

Now, when attacked for voting for the Ryan Plan, swing-district Republicans can say: “Even President Obama recognizes that Medicare and Social Security must be reformed to stave off their bankruptcy and to save the nation for fiscal ruin.” End of debate.

Ah yes, it sucks (sorry Mom) to be Keith Olbermann. Didn’t the president know that Bill Grant and Nancy Pelosi’s Super PAC were going to need that argument to attack Congressman Scott Tipton?  How dare the president put locals like Dr. Mike Pramenko in the awkward spot of having to say that Republican Medicare reform is Satan but Obama’s brand of “ending Medicare as we know it” reform is A-OK.

Of course, there is a catch. According to press reports as this was being written early Thursday, Obama’s demanding a round of new taxes that will be untenable to many in both parties as a pre-condition to supporting entitlement reform. We’ll diatribe on that another day.

But for now, let us celebrate that which is good. Like Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and other conservative leaders of yore, American conservatives in the year of our Lord 2011 are winning the debate about entitlement reform. Of that truth, Obama the Expedient’s capitulation on Medicare is iron-clad proof.

Josh Penry is a former Colorado Senate Minority leader and a graduate of Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.


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