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The Master of Misdirection

How Obama maintains his popularity.

Apr 13, 2009, Vol. 14, No. 29 • By FRED BARNES
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Obama's boldest act of misdirection is his characterization of himself as Dr. Deficit Cutter. "We make hard choices to bring our deficit down," he said in his speech to Congress in February. "We do what it takes to bring this deficit down." That wasn't all. Obama promised "to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term." A month later, his opening statement at a nationally televised, prime time press conference pressed the point again. Yes, he's asking for more domestic spending now, but "at the same time we're still reducing the deficit by a couple of trillion dollars." Other "savings" will follow. "We couldn't reflect all of those adjustments in this budget," he said. (The budget covers 10 years.) Better yet, Obama insisted his budget "leads to broad economic growth by moving from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest."

In truth, Obama plans to borrow and spend far more than ever. As the Washington Post's graph shows, Obama's original budget--even as optimistically scored by the White House--projects deficits larger than Bush's largest for every year as far as the eye can see. Sure, there's a decline from Obama's own astronomical 2009 deficit in time for the 2012 election, but after that the deficits resume their rise.

This didn't trouble congressional Democrats, who overwhelmingly endorsed a $3.5 trillion budget, minimally trimmed from Obama's original, last week. That his spending cuts are mostly illusory didn't bother them either. Nor did the Con-gressional Budget Office's find-ing that his budget would accumulate $9 trillion in deficits over the next decade and triple the national debt.

The budget passed both houses of Congress without sparking a significant national protest--an indication that Obama's use of misdirection is working. But there's a lesson from football that may apply to Obama. If a team uses a tactic too often, everyone catches on. And it doesn't work anymore. t

Fred Barnes is executive editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.