Jackie Calmes: Behold Obama's Budgetary Brilliance

Washington reporter Jackie Calmes evidently approves of Obama's budget in her Monday morning story before the document's official release: "A Cautious Approach Seeking Bipartisan Appeal."

Calmes has been a big booster of Obama's stimulus package, insisting that no reputable economist can deny its success.

Calmes gave Obama credit on Monday morning for his "characteristic caution" (a phrase that provides the big-spending president a false patina of moderation), while the print edition text box implied Obama got the mix just right, like Goldilocks: "Analysts agree President Obama's budget should be bolder, but not yet."

With the budget he is to unveil Monday, President Obama has not opted for the bold, comprehensive approach to reining in the fast-growing federal debt that his own fiscal commission has said is needed, now.

That decision partly reflects Mr. Obama's characteristic caution, but also a White House calculation: that "now" is too soon for the nation's political system. And that boldness could backfire - wounding not just a president facing re-election next year but also the prospects for bipartisan agreement on the very tax and spending-cut proposals that all sides realize are needed to truly stem the projected red ink in a nation confronting high health care costs and an aging population.

Plenty of people here in both parties, even deficit hawks among nonpartisan budget analysts, agree with that White House logic.

Those fierce "deficit hawks" include liberal Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad.

Calmes played defense for Obama's lack of budgetary leadership:

With Republicans newly in control of the House and holding a bigger minority in the Senate, these people argue, the party needs time to at least try to push its own ambitious agenda for reducing government with the deepest spending cuts in memory. To compromise too soon would enrage the Republicans' political base, in particular Tea Party activists who fueled the party's election gains in November.

And, the reasoning goes, were Mr. Obama to propose a drastic debt-reduction plan as an invitation to Republicans to join him at the bargaining table - a plan with the kind of far-reaching tax changes and spending cuts for the military, Medicare and Social Security that a bipartisan majority of his fiscal commission recommended in December - he would most likely get an immediate "no, thanks" from Republican leaders, perhaps poisoning prospects for bipartisan talks for the foreseeable future. In fact, all three House Republican leaders on that commission opposed its majority report.

The headline in The Hill newspaper online was not as forgiving: "Obama budget falls far short of debt commission savings plan."