Wanted: Middle-Class Tweeters for White House Event

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By Caroline Baum

Who were these people, gathered on the afternoon of New Year's Eve to fete the president as a deal to avert the fiscal cliff was hanging in the balance?

They were "middle-class Americans" who had tweeted their way to a staged White House event, according to Politico. Here were folks who had responded to President Barack Obama's catchy Twitter hashtag, #my2k, to tell him what a $2,000 tax increase would mean to them. Not a bad deal for 140 characters or less!

Part pep rally, part bully pulpit, the 11th-hour event was embarrassing to watch. Why would a president who will need to re-engage Republicans within weeks on the government's borrowing authority create additional animosity by bashing them? (Obama says he will not negotiate over the debt limit again, but I suspect the Republican Party sees things differently.)

The crowd gathered at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Monday looked fairly young, which makes their cheering even more disconcerting. Don't they understand that the president has done nothing to protect future generations from a crushing debt burden? Nothing about deficit reduction other than to talk about it? Nothing about preserving Medicare other than to demagogue any changes to the program?

A president truly interested in the issues he claims to be would have used this opportunity to educate younger Americans. Explain to them that the government has made promises to the elderly that it can't keep. Tell them they have choices to make on the benefits they want and the price they'll have to pay.

All I could think about when I listened to Obama address the assembled crowd was former President Ronald Reagan's Cold War strategy: "We win, they lose."

You won, Mr. President. You won re-election. You got your promised tax increases on the rich. But we lost. And if we lose, then ultimately you lose.

(Caroline Baum is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow her on Twitter.)

Read more breaking commentary from Bloomberg View at the Ticker.

-0- Jan/02/2013 15:37 GMT