The Note, 1/16/09: Hard Sell — Obama Takes Show on the Road

By Caitlin Taylor

Jan 16, 2009 8:33am

By RICK KLEIN He already owns it — but now he sells it. With President Bush off the stage, it’s all President-elect Barack Obama’s play now. He got the vote he wanted Thursday — the Senate releasing the second half of the bailout money with minimal angst, in the end. But every push from here gets progressively harder. Obama takes it on the road Friday, to Bedford Heights, Ohio, to press for a stimulus package that, at this moment, costs more but cuts taxes less than he’d initially hoped.  Already, he’s expanding his goals — talking not just about economic recovery but about fiscal discipline, entitlement reform, grand choices, trade-offs. It’s all his — but does he want it? (And will he get it?) Sitting down with The Washington Post: “President-elect Barack Obama pledged yesterday to shape a new Social Security and Medicare ‘bargain’ with the American people, saying that the nation’s long-term economic recovery cannot be attained unless the government finally gets control over its most costly entitlement programs,” the Post’s Michael Shear reports. “He said his administration will begin confronting the issues of entitlement reform and long-term budget deficits soon after it jump-starts job growth and the stock market.”  “This, by the way, is where there are going to be very difficult choices and issues of sacrifice and responsibility and duty,” Obama said, probably understating the case. “You have to have a president who is willing to spend some political capital on this. And I intend to spend some.” (Who’s the last president to boast of the political capital he was about to spend, and how did that turn out?) (And will this cost him some allies? “The president-elect also gave his support for legislation that would make it easier for workers to unionize, but he said there may be other ways to achieve the same goal without angering businesses. And while many Democrats on Capitol Hill are eager to see a quick vote on that bill, he indicated no desire to rush into the contentious issue,” Shear writes. Said Obama: “If we’re losing half a million jobs a month, then there are no jobs to unionize, so my focus first is on those key economic priority items I just mentioned. … Let’s see what the legislative docket looks like.”)  The transition has confirmed perceptions that Obama most likely has the tools and political skills to govern effectively. But all the fault lines you need for a coalition to come apart have revealed themselves over the past few weeks — from Rick Warren to Bill Richardson to Leon Panetta to Tim Geithner to Roland Burris.

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