Republicans often spout off about Obama's lack of leadership and inability to get anything done. So, it's refreshing to see the GOP demand that Obama show leadership, even if his leadership really doesn't matter all that much.
Here's the situation: At the end of this year, the US government will see a large-scale tax increase and a equal cut to the defense budget. This is meant to steer America away from the "fiscal cliff" that Republicans are warning about. Keep in mind, this was the agreed upon consequence if the Left and Right couldn't come up with a plan to make cuts in other ways to help with the deficit and debt. Republicans agreed to this plan, and are now backtracking by claiming it's a bad idea and will ruin the economy. As a side question, I wonder why they agreed to these measures in the first place if they didn't agree with them?
So, anyway, while Obama is running his reelection campaign, Congress is fighting over a way to prevent these inevitable cuts and tax hikes. Republicans have used this opportunity to attack the President for his lack of leadership at this financially dark time, and have demanded that he return to Washington from his fundraising tour to help lead the Congress to a solution.
Now, at face value, this makes sense. Obama, our President, should be a part of the discussion on these issues. He should be at the center of the conversation, sitting at the table, negotiating for an end result that will benefit everyone. He is, after all, the President. Isn't that his job?
As a matter of fact, Obama's job has nothing to do with crafting or passing legislation. He's not a member of Congress, and has no vote or influence on any bill, save for what his distinguished office affords him, which is not much more than a seat at the table. Remember, its Congress that writes and passes bills, and the President that signs them into laws. The President is not required to negotiate on legislation. In fact, in the interests of maintaining the separation of powers in Washington, I would argue he should actively avoid those discussions.
So why are Republicans pouncing on this? Well, to be fair, this is the same mantra that is blasted at this time of year by the President's opposition in reference to whatever issue they are facing that day. The same attack was made of Bush in 2004. And remember the 2008 campaign? McCain and Obama both missed most of the roll call votes in Congress because they were out campaigning, and both got flack for it. But, like all those other times, this attack plays to people's ignorance about how government works. Obama has no influence on Congress, save that his own party tends to listen to him. The Republicans aren't going to magically start working with Democrats when Obama sits at the table. I'd be willing to be that his presence makes them less willing to work together.
No, the reason this argument is being made, in my view, is because Republicans want an excuse to do nothing. They want to point at the President and say "he's the reason we're not working with the Dems. It's his fault because he's not here talking to us!" So, Republicans are not neglecting their jobs as Representatives of the American People to make political hay out of the impending cuts and taxes they themselves agreed to, but rather because they feel snubbed by the President? Please.
Republicans, and some Democrats, are not doing their jobs. By claiming that they are waiting for the President, Republicans show that they understand how the average American views the office of President: not as an overseer, but as a participatory member of the lawmaking body. Republicans are placing the blame for their unwillingness to work on the President, despite the fact that he is not necessary in this situation. They are sitting on their hands for no good reason, seeing that delaying this discussion is to their political advantage, even if they also believe the results of the automatic consequences are bad for America.
Obama should just keep doing what he's doing. Keep campaigning, keep raising money, keep himself in the public eye. If he goes back to Washington to sit at the table for these debates, Republicans will seek to keep him there as long as possible and keep him off the campaign. It's a dirty game they're playing, but then politics has never exactly been clean...