President Obama seems to pride himself on a deep understanding of the Republican/conservative mind. He thinks he knows the other side’s arguments at least as well — probably better — than they do. And perhaps he does, though I doubt it. And here is just one bit of evidence of why I doubt it (via the NYTimes):
With Congress unlikely to stop deep automatic spending cuts that will strike hard at the military, the fiscal stalemate is highlighting a significant shift in the Republican Party: lawmakers most keenly dedicated to shrinking the size of government are now more dominant than the bloc committed foremost to a robust national defense, particularly in the House.
That reality also underscores what Republicans, and some Democrats, say was a major miscalculation on the part of President Obama. He agreed to set up the automatic cuts 18 months ago because he believed the threat of sharp reductions in military spending would be enough to force Republicans to agree to a deficit reduction plan that included the tax increases he favored. “Fiscal questions trump defense in a way they never would have after 9/11,” said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma. “But the war in Iraq is over. Troops are coming home from Afghanistan, and we want to secure the cuts.”
This is not an outcome Obama wants, though maybe not for the military readiness reasons he talks about. As I mention today in my new National Review column: “On first take, one might think the president would be a fervent fan of the sequester’s roughly $500 billion in defense cuts. When combined with the Budget Control Act’s spending caps, defense spending as a share of GDP would decline to 2.4% over the next decade, according to the Heritage Foundation. That’s roughly what Britain and France spend today. Such a paltry level seems to be what formerly great military powers spend on 21st century armed forces. A Europe-sized military for America to go with a soon-to-be Europe-sized welfare state. Now, Obama would surely love to use any “peace dividend” as a de facto future funding source for Obamacare, universal pre-k, high-speed rail, or whatever other spending ideas the White House’s Keynesian cooks whip up. Under the sequester, however, that $500 billion is used for deficit reduction.”