Is Obama Backing Away From No Tax-Hike Pledge for Middle Class?

Obama's prime-time press conference marking his six-month anniversary in office was devoted to shoring up support for his idea of major health-care overhaul, in the name of both full coverage and cost control.


But Thursday's lead story by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Jeff Zeleny glided by potential big news: Obama backing off his campaign pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class, only "the rich."


The opening to "President Seeks Public's Support On Health Care":


President Obamatried on Wednesday to rally public support for overhauling the nation's health care system and said for the first time that he would be willing to help pay for the plan by raising income taxes on families earning more than $1 million a year.


"If I see a proposal that is primarily funded through taxing middle-class families, I'm going to be opposed to that," Mr. Obama said in a prime-time news conference in the East Room of the White House. A surcharge on the highest-income Americans, under consideration in the House, "meets my principle," he said.


Does that weasel word "primarily" mean the president would be ok-dokey with middle-class families providing some of the funding? And "be opposed to" is a far cry from "veto."


Here's Obama's press-conferencecomment in full (emphasis added):


The one commitment that I've been clear about is, I don't want that final one-third of the cost of health care to be completely shouldered on the backs of middle-class families who are already struggling in a difficult economy. And so if I see a proposal that is primarily funded through taxing middle-class families, I'm going to be opposed to that, because I think there are better ideas to do it.


It does sound like Obama is inching away from his campaign pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class, a pledge the Times took Obama's word on during the campaign. Obama's most ardent Timessupporter/reporter was Larry Rohter, whovociferously defended Obama against charges by McCain that Obama would raise taxes on the middle class.


But now that Obama, safely in office, is leaving the door open for middle-class tax increases, the Times glides over the issue. Slate blogger Mickey Kaus writes of Obama's lecture last night:


However you interpret these sentences, it's hard to see how Obama hasn't given a flashing green light to non-trivial tax increaseson middle class families.