“The President’s Sequester?”

Speaker Boehner has begun referring to the pending automatic across the board spending cuts as “the president’s sequester.” The folly of this rhetorical sleight of hand is hard to over state. His dead pan, almost boilerplate, delivery of this line makes it pretty obvious that even he doesn’t believe it. Ironically, there actually is a case to be made that President Obama is at least equally responsible for the severity of the impending cuts. Boehner’s weak rhetorical jab, however, only further obscures the likelihood of a more nuanced (and accurate) account emerging.

The Speaker needs to consult history, particularly that of one of his predecessors, Newt Gingrich, who showed that the American people are way too smart for such transparently absurd framing. When Gingrich tried to lay the blame for a government shutdown on President Clinton, no one was fooled. The same will, no doubt, be true of Boehner’s folly.

Government shutdowns and massive spending cuts can’t be successfully blamed on Democrats simply because Republicans take such relish in being the party of smaller government and cuts, both of the tax and spending varieties. Furthermore, like Speaker Gingrich before him, Boehner’s spin is contradicted on a daily basis by members of his own party who happily frame the reduction of government services to come as a good thing.

The President cannot be effectively portrayed as a reckless over-spender AND a reckless spending cutter at the same time. The Speaker should reserve this sort of illogical nonsense for the Tea Party faction of his party. For everyone else, it’s just stupid. In fact, this is exactly the sort of rhetoric that has popularized the notion of the Republican Party as “the Stupid Party.”

About Jerold Duquette

Jerold Duquette is an associate professor of political science at Central Connecticut State University. He is the author of Regulating the National Pastime: Baseball and Antitrust and has published articles and book chapters on campaign finance reform, political parties, Massachusetts politics and political culture, public opinion, and political socialization. Professor Duquette lives in Longmeadow, MA with his wife and four children.
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