Erskine Bowles on Obama's failed leadership

Jen Rubin has a transcript of a talk given by former Clinton White House staffer Erskine Bowles who was co-chair of the Deficit Commission established by Obama to deal with our fiscal probelems.

As with the Supercommittee, Obama took no part in discussions or decisions. Bowles finds this incomprehensible:

I did not know President Obama, and neither did Alan. So we spent a tremendous amount of time with him and his economic team up-front defining success. And we negotiated a deal that got a majority of Republicans to vote for it, so he had plenty of cover on the other side. It also exceeded every single one of the goals that he had given us.

I fully expected them to grab hold of this. If it had been President Clinton, he would have said, "God, I created this, this is wonderful. It was all my idea."

So we were really surprised. My belief is that most of the members of the economic team strongly supported it. Like every White House, there's a small cabal of people that surround the president that he trusts and works with, and I believe it was those Chicago guys, the political team that convinced him that it would be smarter for him to wait and let Paul Ryan go first, and then he would look like the sensible guy in the game.

We then expected, before the State of the Union, that when he did the stimulus, that that would be a great time to say not only, look, we're going to do this to get the economy moving forward, but we have to do it within the context of long-term fiscal reform and responsibility. And he didn't.

It's what happens when amateurs are put in charge. They play political games when they should be statesman like, and try to appear like statesmen where politics should be employed. The deficit is both a policy and politics problem and Obama has failed to address the issue from either perspective.

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