Barack Obama has largely left the partisan shots at his conservative opponents to his aides and the DNC, except when directly asked for a response.
But during his town hall appearance on Wednesday in Arnold, Missouri, the president took an unprompted swipe at the cable news networks (presumably, Fox News) and Tea Party protesters ("folks waving tea bags around") whose complaints about government spending, he said, were the equivalent of political gamesmanship.
"When you see, you know, those of you that are watching certain news channels on which I'm not very popular, and you see folks waving tea bags around, let me just remind them that I am happy to have a serious conversation about how we are going to cut our health care costs down over the long term, how we are going to stabilize Social Security," he said. "[Sen.] Claire [McCaskill] and I are working diligently to basically do a thorough audit of federal spending," Obama told the crowd, at one point mimicking the waving of a tea bag with his left hand.
"But let's not play games and pretend that the reason is because of the Recovery Act, because that is just a fraction of the overall problem that we've got. We are going to have to tighten our belts but we are going to have to do it intelligently. And we got to make sure that the people helped are working American families and we are not suddenly saying that the way to do this is to eliminate programs that help ordinary people and give more tax cuts to the wealthy. We tried that formula for eight years and it did not work. And I don't intend to go back to it."
The shot across the bow at the Tea Party demonstrators follows prior administration efforts to paint those protests as decidedly non-reality based affairs. Usually, the argument entails reminding these individuals that the White House has passed the largest middle class tax cut in the nation's history. But the notion that the Recovery Act is "just a fraction of the overall problem" seems like a hard pill to swallow, not least because of its $787 billion price tag. Two weeks ago, the president and his aides announced plans for $100 million cuts in agency budgets as a step forward in fiscal prudence.