Live-Blogging Obama’s Moment Of Fiscal Truth


2.40 pm. I'm not sure how major an impact this midday speech will have – simply because it will be highly limited in its audience. But it was classic Obama – a center left approach to a center-right conviction: that the debt is unsustainable; that we all have to make sacrifices; that defense-cutting, reducing the cost of healthcare; and tax reform are integral to this possibility.

And it looks as if he will indeed use the debt ceiling moment to push some version of this through. I didn't get the sense from this speech that he was only planning to do this in his second term. And surely, after the cold shock of the Ryan plan, his less draconian vision for the vulnerable will be popular in the middle. The least persuasive part of the GOP proposal is its refusal to ask anything from the top one percent in this crisis. Obama saw this, and went for it.

2.38 pm. Now the classic Obama move: not red or blue but both; not Republican or Democrat but patriotism. And the three Rs: "Rebuilding, refurbishing, reforming."

2.35 pm. He's invoking Reagan and Tip O'Neill – and Gingrich and Clinton! A nice formulation: a "balanced approach" to debt reduction. And this will drive Krugman up the wall: an assertion that the GOP leadership wants to do the right thing. Then a deadline of resolving this by June – before the final deadline for national default.

2.33 pm. Then the classic pivot against the left. "Doing nothing" is not an option. Calls out progressives for not seeking to prove that government can get leaner and more effective in delivering liberal goals.

2.32 pm. "I do not need another tax cut." And then the real dinger: he claims most of the well-off would welcome paying a little more to save the country from fiscal ruin.

2.26 pm. Tax reform is, in his view, a major potential revenue raiser. It's a stronger position than the GOP's, which seems more like anti-tax theology than debt-cutting pragmatism.

2.24 pm. This speech is getting more defiantly liberal as it goes along. He uses the v-word ("vouchers") to describe what the GOP wants to do to Medicare. Putting "seniors at the mercy of insurance companies" is a politically potent piece of fear-mongering.

2.20 pm. He'll use Medicare's power, he says, to bring down drug prices (and, of course, make the development of new drugs even riskier than it is).

2.18 pm. "We wil do what we need to do to win the future." He starts with last week's cuts in discretionary spending. Then he goes right away to cutting defense. These rhetorical priorities must be encouraging his base. More encouraging: a thoroughgoing review of America's global commitments. Do we really need tens of thousands of troops in Germany?

2.17 pm. Are you for children with Down Syndrome … or tax cuts for the increasingly wealthy? Then he describes himself as one of the rich, and compares his new tax break with 33 seniors having to find $6,000 each to fund their healthcare. Then a hard-hitting claim that the Ryan plan isn't "serious or courageous."

All of this is casting the GOP plan as pessimistic about America's future. A deft blending of Reagan's rhetoric with Clinton's policies.

2.16 pm. A nice jujitsu on the Republicans' alleged pessimism about what America can do to compete with emerging economic powers, like China and Brazil.

2.14 pm. He describes the Ryan plan as something Ryan deserves credit for introducing. Then he goes for the jugular, presenting himself as a defender of traditional American values.

2.13 pm. He's now listing things that most Independents like about government spending – and implying that this is where the GOP wants to cut the most.

2.10 pm. He really is speaking as a bipartisan president, not as a Democratic party leader. This is a speech to the center: "No one believes they should be paying higher taxes."

2.05 pm. The statistic of a trillion dollar annual interest payment does bring the crisis home, doesn't it?

2 pm. Back to the bipartisan 1990s!

1.55 pm. He's going strong on the Bush tax cuts. But surely the Clinton surplus was distorted by the tech bubble.

1.49 pm. He's way late.

(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty.)