Well, we’re sequestered.
On Friday, President Obama met – for less than an hour – with the leaders of the House and Senate in a last-ditch attempt to beat tonight’s deadline and avoid the sequester.
No luck.
I guess I should have called it a “first-ditch” effort because it was the first time they met in months.
Does anybody but me find that odd? This should have been the end of the negotiations, not the beginning, right?
But it seems President Obama has been too busy criss-crossing the nation telling everybody how dire the consequences would be to actually lead the debate in D.C.
Sadly, much of what he was saying was disingenuous. At one stop, he was surrounded by local cops and firefighters.
“Are you willing to see a bunch of first responders lose their jobs because you want to protect a special interest tax loophole? Are you willing to have teachers laid off?” he asked.
Really? A bunch of cops, firemen and teachers are going to get laid off?
No, those public servants are state and locally funded.
Obama’s department heads were out in force, too, peddling the same message of gloom and doom.
Last week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the Washington Post, "Schools across the country are sending out pink slips as they brace for the possibility of deep federal budget cuts that could take effect next week. There's no one in their right mind who would say that this is good for kids ... yet somehow it becomes tenable in Washington."
Duncan was on “Face the Nation.” He said, "There are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that they can't come back this fall."
Three days later, a reporter finally asked Duncan to name one of the affected school districts.
Duncan mentioned a school district in West Virginia. But when Washington Post reporters looked into it, school officials in Kanawha County, West Virginia, said that transfer notices sent to at least 104 educators had little to do with the sequester.
The transfer notices are required by state law to inform teachers of low-income students that might be moved to a different position during the next school year. The notices don’t even necessarily mean a teacher will be laid off. “It’s not like we’re cutting people’s jobs at this point,” the school official said.
The Post characterized the education secretary’s mischaracterizations as “hype.” “Bull” would be a better term.
But these words of woe are reported by the national media over and over on all the evening news shows. Dozens of millions of people heard how cops and firemen and teachers jobs were being axed by Republican “meat cleavers.”
Only those who do a little digging find out that a lot of it was simply not true.
Obama and his administration officials know this. They know they can say whatever they want and it will be largely unchallenged. And if it is challenged, the challenge will be days later and not widely disseminated.
It’s too bad.
Republicans certainly must shoulder some of the blame for this ridiculous  sequestration situation. After all, the Republican-led Congress passed it into law.
But it was all the president’s men who came up with the sequestration idea in the first place, so it’s a bit hypocritical for Obama to blame it all on Republicans now.
And woe is the man who dares to point that out.
The man is Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Bob Woodward of the Washington Post.
Woodward notes in his book, “The Price of Politics,” that it was Obama and White House advisers who came up with the sequester idea.
“The White House proposed the idea of a compulsory trigger, with (White House national economic council director Gene) Sperling calling it an ‘automatic sequester,’ though initially it was to include tax revenue, not just spending cuts. (House Speaker John) Boehner was ‘nervous’ about using it as a budget tool.”
Woodward goes into great detail in the book about how Sperling, White House Budget director Jack Lew and White House legislative affairs director Rob Nabors brokered the deal with conservatives by removing the revenue piece.
Woodward recently criticized Obama for “moving the goal posts” by now demanding that revenue be part of the deal.
Of course, Obama’s version is a little different: “The sequester is not something that I've proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed.”
So last week when Woodward decided to write a column for the Post questioning Obama’s account of how the sequestration came about, he called Sperling to give him a heads up.
Woodward told politico.com Sperling “yelled at me for about a half-hour.”  Woodward produced a page-long email from Sperling that followed the tirade.
“I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today,” Sperling wrote.  “You’re focusing on a few specific trees that give a very wrong impression of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here. … I think you will regret staking out that claim.”
Woodward told Politico, “‘You’ll regret.’ Come on, I think if Obama himself saw the way they’re dealing with some of this, he would say, ‘Whoa, we don’t tell any reporter ‘you’re going to regret challenging us.’”
Later, Woodward told CNN host Wolf Blitzer, "It makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters, 'You're going to regret doing something that you believe in.'"
Woodward, of course, is undeterred.
When he heard that the Defense Department would not deploy the U.S.S. Harry Truman to the Persian Gulf, citing the sequester, he went on MSNBC and said Obama was showing a "kind of madness I haven't seen in a long time. ...
"Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting there and saying, 'Oh, by the way, I can't do this because of some budget document?'
"Or George W. Bush saying, 'You know, I'm not going to invade Iraq because I can't get the aircraft carriers I need?’
“Or even Bill Clinton saying, 'You know, I'm not going to attack Saddam Hussein's intelligence headquarters,' ... because of some budget document?"
Frankly, all that stuff is really peripheral nonsense. Let’s focus on a couple of truly relevant facts.
First, the government currently takes in $2.4 trillion a year and spends $3.7 trillion. It’s simply unsustainable.
Second, sequestration is not even a cut. No matter what happens, the government will spend MORE during this budget cycle than it did during the last one. It’s not cutting government. It’s slowing the growth of government by a tiny fraction – maybe.
Allow me to paraphrase our president: There’s no Democratic sequester. There’s no Republican sequester. There’s only the United Farce of Sequester.
I see little hope.