Even in the face of a plea from Nancy Pelosi, President Obama insisted on subordinating the defense needs of the United States to his reelection efforts. This is an under-reported lesson from Glenn Thrush’s new e-book, Obama’s Last Stand. According to Thrush:
In mid-2012, the House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, requested a sit-down to ask Obama to reconsider the billions of defense cuts that would kick in automatically as part of the 2011 budget deal. The cuts included in ‘the sequester,’ she argued, would hurt Democratic House members with major defense contractors in their districts. They were asking for an alternative state of cuts, or any kind of plan that would keep local employers – and, by implication, local contributors – happy.
Note that Pelosi’s concern was keeping local financial contributors happy. If she was concerned about the impact of sequestration on our armed services and national security, she did not, according to Thrush’s account, make this her pitch to President Obama.
Nonetheless, Obama understands the harm that sequestration would inflict on our military, a harm about which his Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, has repeatedly warned. Indeed, Panetta says that sequestration would be devastating to our military.
So how did the Commander-in-Chief respond to Pelosi? Thrush says he responded as follows:
Obama told the former speaker what he had been saying for months – that he wasn’t budging on the defense cuts. Doing so would surrender his only leverage in forcing House Republicans to accept the expiration of tax cuts for the wealthy – the only weapon he had against their efforts ‘to delegitimize me,’ as he put it. Moreover, he bluntly called on Hill Democrats to reorient their priorities – from them to him. ‘Look, guys,’ he told Pelosi, Harry Reid, and several other congressional leaders, according to a person briefed in detail on the interaction. ‘I plan on winning this race. If I don’t win, then anything we say now doesn’t matter. I plan on winning this race. So let’s figure out how to win this race.’