Landry’s Obama Snub Understandable, But It’s An Unforced Error (UPDATED)

The Times-Picayune had the story this morning of U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry’s announcement that he was kissing off an invite to the White House to talk about the budget after last night’s overwhelming defeat of the president’s “clean” bill to raise the debt ceiling.

“I have respectfully declined the president’s invitation to the White House today,” Landry said in a statement. “I don’t intend to spend my morning being lectured to by a president whose failed policies have put our children and grandchildren in a huge burden of debt.”

Landry went further, as the Washington Post quoted him

“Until the President produces a responsible deficit reduction plan, I’m not going to the White House to negotiate with myself,” he added. “Our conference has put out for months where we would start the process. The President has done nothing, just like he has for the people of the Gulf Coast.”

More than 200 Republican House members made the trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., including all five of the other Louisiana Republicans.

As our readers know, we’re huge Landry fans here at the Hayride. He’s a strong conservative and he fights like a wolverine for his district and the state. And based on the history of past encounters between President Obama and GOP House leaders, his sentiments are completely warranted. Dealing with Obama on any substantial level has proven a complete waste of time. The President has repeatedly ignored Congress and attempted to enforce policy through executive fiat which he was not able to get passed through legislative channels, his pronouncements on budget matters are disingenuous and demagogic to a comic extent and the sort of disrespect he’s repeatedly shown to political opponents – as seen in technicolor when he gave Paul Ryan a front-row seat to his own rhetorical evisceration on budgetary matters earlier this year – has disgraced his office.

So we’re very sympathetic to the idea that Landry is giving Obama exactly what he deserves. We don’t like it, though.

For two reasons.

First, it’s off-message. The House GOP has taken the responsible position on the budget by presenting the Ryan plan, and for their trouble they were greeted by unserious and ridiculous Democrat demogoguery. We’ve seen Mediscare 24/7 and we’ve seen absolutely no plan presented by the Dems in response to Ryan’s ideas for bringing the budget into balance.

The latter is where things lie. The Democrats’ approach accusing Ryan of killing old people might be fine for a short-term political bounce, but as time goes by and the public focuses on the fiscal policy debate it’s going to become more and more obvious that while Ryan’s plan might be objectionable to some, at least it’s an attempt to bring the budget back into balance – and that plan represents a serious attempt at governance neither Obama nor his Dem friends on the Hill have made. Over time, that’s going to become the public’s perception of the issue.

But it won’t be if what’s being focused on is some freshman congressman who said mean things about Obama and didn’t go to see him. That’s an easy media story which detracts attention from the substantial debate.

And second, it’s rude – and it’s going to get recognized as such. The Picayune story had this…

Norm Ornstein, long-time congressional scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, suggested Landry was out of line to decline the president’s invitation.

“It is more than a little arrogant,” Ornstein said. “It belittles the office of the presidency and shows that Landry has little understanding of the political process, the role of the constitutional institutions, much less basic politeness.”

That might be over the top, but there’s no doubt the reaction to the snub will move the attention away from the fact Obama is the problem where the budget is concerned and toward this business of these snarling, uncivil Republicans – and Landry will be the new Joe Wilson for his trouble.

It would have been a whole lot smarter had Landry gone to the White House, attempted to score some political points while in the room and then called a press conference to blast away at Obama for his lack of commitment to balancing the budget, his refusal to support an energy policy that doesn’t amount to treason, his dismissive attitude toward a House of Representatives which reflects the majority view of the American people and whatever else he can think up.

Landry’s lucky to an extent, in that Anthony Weiner’s weiner is sucking all the air out of the Washington discussion – so outside of Louisiana nobody will really remember his refusal to meet with the president.

Still, it’s a mistake. He shouldn’t make it again.

UPDATE: At least it sounds like Landry’s characterization in advance of the meeting was spot on. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), who also declined to attend, was just on Cavuto saying that his understanding of the meeting was that it lasted an hour, and the majority of that time was filled by Obama giving a speech.

Also, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Metairie) put out a press release following the meeting to the effect that he pressed Obama on energy policy and got what’s likely to be an empty promise of cooperation…

During a meeting at the White House with House Republicans, Congressman Steve Scalise today asked President Barack Obama to resolve the lack of clarity in the approval process for offshore drilling permits and exploration plans.  The President responded that he and his Director of the National Economic Council would work with Scalise to address the problem.  Scalise has consistently advocated for the administration to remove roadblocks in the permitting process since the President imposed a moratorium on deepwater drilling.

“After our entire Congressional delegation has pressed for a meeting with President Obama for nearly a year, I was glad to finally have the opportunity to ask the President directly to improve the permitting process so people can get back to work drilling safely in the Gulf of Mexico,” Scalise said.  “The facts speak for themselves – more than 13,000 jobs have been lost throughout the region and 12 offshore rigs have left our waters to drill in foreign countries as a result of this administration’s policies.  I emphasized to the President the need to lay out a clear path that lets our people get back to work exploring safely for energy in America, and pointed out the roadblocks that have been placed by the Department of Interior and other federal agencies.  The President committed to work with me to address problems in the permitting process. I will immediately follow up with the President and his Director of the National Economic Council to give him the opportunity to fulfill his pledge and in return we can create thousands more high-paying American jobs, and strengthen our country’s energy security.”

For nearly a year, Scalise has joined with the entire Louisiana Congressional delegation in asking to meet with the President to discuss the deepwater drilling moratorium, the ongoing permitorium, in both shallow and deepwater,  and domestic energy production, but this is the first time the President has personally met with Scalise on the issue.



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