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There’s a rather surreal lead in Sunday’s NY Times by Binyamin Appelbaum and Helene Cooper, entitled: “White House Debates Fight on Economy.” What makes it quite incredible, IMHO, is the fact that, not too far into the piece, we learn: “Dan Pfeiffer, the White House director of communications, said that there was no internal debate.”

This, apparently, is "the plan..."

Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Plouffe, and his chief of staff, William M. Daley, want him to maintain a pragmatic strategy of appealing to independent voters by advocating ideas that can pass Congress, even if they may not have much economic impact. These include free trade agreements and improved patent protections for inventors.

Bold type is diarist’s emphasis.

Seriously? Read the blockquoted paragraph, above, one more time. (I had to read it a few times, myself; just to let it sink in.)

In addition to blaming the GOPers for the bottleneck in D.C., here’s the White House strategy…

…Mr. Plouffe and Mr. Daley share the view that a focus on deficit reduction is an economic and political imperative, according to people who have spoken with them. Voters believe that paying down the debt will help the economy, and the White House agrees, although it wants to avoid cutting too much spending while the economy remains weak.

As part of this appeal to centrist voters, the president intends to continue his push for a so-called grand bargain on deficit reduction — a deal with Republicans to make even larger spending cuts, including to the social safety net, in exchange for some revenue increases — despite the strong opposition of Congressional Democrats who want to use the issue to draw contrasts with Republicans...

Is the actual strategy of our Party in 2012 going to be one where hope is held out that the Republicans will just scare the crap out of the public so much, voters will feel so compelled to stop them that they’ll rush to the polls to re-elect the President?

You know, I never thought I’d say this—given that I’ve always found that a candidate running for re-election or election had to concisely provide reasons to the voter as to why they should cast their vote for them--but that strategy just might work…at least it would in a world where one is not tacitly demoralizing part of their base while attempting to underwhelm voters, in general; and, where their opposition is not spending a billion dollars to kick their ass.

…But Christina Romer, who stepped down last year as the chairwoman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, said Mr. Obama should fight for short-term spending in combination with long-term deficit reduction.

“Playing it safe is not going to cut it,” said Ms. Romer, a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley. “Not proposing anything bold and not trying to do something to definitively deal with our problems would mean that we’re going to have another year and a half like the last year and a half — and then it’s awfully hard to get re-elected.”

But there is little support for such an approach inside the administration...

Please wake us up when this is over.

9:26 AM PT: Calculated Risk, one of the true “go-to” sources for statistical analysis and commentary about our economy and, IMHO, a normally upbeat and fairly supportive blog as far as the administration’s economic policies are concerned, had this to say about today’s NY Times’ lead…

White House Debates Doing Little or Nothing

by CalculatedRisk on 8/13/2011 10:46:00 PM

This is depressing ...from the NY Times: White House Debates Fight on Economy

Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Plouffe, and his chief of staff, William M. Daley, want him to maintain a pragmatic strategy of appealing to independent voters by advocating ideas that can pass Congress, even if they may not have much economic impact. These include free trade agreements and improved patent protections for inventors.

But others, including Gene Sperling, Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser [argue] for bigger ideas like tax incentives for businesses that hire more workers ...

Tax incentives are the "bigger idea"? It sounds like the debate is between doing nothing and doing very little.

If I arrived on the scene today - with a 9.1% unemployment rate and about 4.6 million homes with seriously delinquent mortgages or REO - I'd be arguing for an aggressive policy response.

(h/t to Kossack emal in the comments.)

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