1:50 p.m. E.T.
Somewhere, Frank Luntz is smiling; the President used a soothing tone and carefully chosen words to leverage his many strengths in the ongoing and upcoming debt ceiling and spending fights in his Monday midday session with the media.
The questions were mostly about the fiscal cliff and the debt ceiling (with guns, insularity, and diversity thrown in as well), and the President came armed with honed versions of his recent arguments.
He won’t negotiate over the debt ceiling; Republicans are being reckless by even threatening to not increase the debt ceiling; if the debt ceiling isn’t upped, there will be real-world consequences, such as delays in Social Security checks and veterans’ benefits; Republicans can’t and won’t list enough spending cuts to reach the levels they claim to want to reach to achieve their desired levels of deficit reduction.
Also: plenty of mentions of Speaker Boehner and Republicans in Congress. (No accident that.)
He also repeated his willingness to accept Mitch McConnell’s 2011 idea that the responsibility to raise the debt ceiling rests largely with the executive branch. That idea could probably pass both chambers of Congress in the absence of a grand bargain, but it would require Boehner once again allowing a controversial piece of legislation to come to the House floor without the support of a majority of majority backing it.
There have been times in the last four years at which it has seemed Barack Obama has had trouble significantly bending public opinion in his direction on the fiscal wars with the Hill by using the bully pulpit. Monday, he seemed to believe that this is not one of those times. Some of his arguments are likely a little (or a lot) abstract for real people outside Washington, but the argument about Social Security checks and veterans benefits — that one breaks through.
One more thing, on gun laws: expect some emotion around that issue during the State of the Union address.