Political columnists are not half as influential as they used to be. The internet has seen to that. But Dana Milbank of the Washington Post is always a good bellweather for how Obama is playing on the left, and his column today is a scorcher aimed at President Obama.
Milbank didn't mince any words when writing about the president's speech yesterday:
I had high hopes for President Obama's speech on the economy. But instead of going to Ohio on Thursday with a compelling plan for the future, the president gave Americans a falsehood wrapped in a fallacy.
The falsehood is that he has been serious about cutting government spending. The fallacy is that this election will be some sort of referendum that will break the logjam in Washington.
Fallacy first. "Both parties have laid out their policies on the table for all to see," Obama said. "What's holding us back is a stalemate in Washington between two fundamentally different views of which direction America should take. And this election is your chance to break that stalemate."
He's right about the stalemate. But he's absolutely wrong that November offers an opportunity to break it. No scenario shows either party with a chance of amassing a solid governing majority of the sort Obama had when he took office. The way to break the stalemate is through compromise, not conquest.
And that leads to the falsehood. Despite his claim that "both parties have laid out their policies on the table," Obama has made no serious proposal to fix the runaway entitlement programs that threaten to swamp the government's finances.
"My own deficit plan would strengthen Medicare and Medicaid for the long haul by slowing the growth of health-care costs - not shifting them to seniors and vulnerable families," Obama said. "And my plan would reduce our yearly domestic spending to its lowest level as a share of the economy in nearly 60 years."
That's incorrect. As Politifact has pointed out, Obama's claim that he would reduce annual domestic spending to a percentage of gross domestic product not seen in 60 years is true only if you don't count the enormous spending on programs such as Medicare.
It's not so much that Milbank isn't very influential nationally that makes this important. It's the loss of confidence by inside the beltway Democrats that Milbank represents. If Big Labor is tiptoeing away from Obama, and some Washington Democrats are openly criticizing him, it will be that much harder for Obama to run the kind of campaign he needs to in order to win.