As Cuts Loom and Public Shrugs, NY Times Suddenly Spins Other Way on Sequestration

Spinning the sequester in the New York Times. After weeks of cringing over the supposedly damaging federal cuts due to take effect tomorrow (even as the public shrugs them off) Jonathan Weisman made an 180-degree turn on the front of Thursday's paper: "Parties Focus On the Positive As Cuts Near." The text box: "An onerous possibility turns out to be not quite so onerous."

Suddenly the Times is seeing a win-win-win situation, for liberals, conservatives, and the White House.

With time running short and little real effort under way to avert automatic budget cuts that take effect Friday, substantial and growing wings of both parties are learning to live with -- if not love -- the so-called sequester.

“It’s going to happen,” said Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio and a leading conservative voice in the House. “It’s not the end of the world.”

For weeks, President Obama has barnstormed the country, warning of the dire consequences of the cuts to military readiness, educators, air travel and first responders even as the White House acknowledges that some of the disruptions will take weeks to emerge.

The reverse side has gone unmentioned: Some of the most liberal members of Congress see the cuts as a rare opportunity to whittle down Pentagon spending. The poor are already shielded from the worst of the cuts, and the process could take pressure off the Democratic Party, at least in the short run, to tamper with Social Security and Medicare.

At the same time, the president gets some relief from the constant drumbeat of budget news to focus on his top policy priorities: immigration and gun control.

And Republicans, while denouncing the level of military cuts and the ham-handedness of the budget scythe, finally see the government shrinking in real dollars.

What explains the Times turnaround? One possible reason – they've discovered that congressional left-wingers like the significant defense cuts.

But some on the left have used it as a rallying cry. Twenty-one House Democrats have signed a letter saying that with the cuts in place, they will vote against “any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits” going forward. One House Democratic leader, speaking on the condition of anonymity, conceded this week that rallying the base against the cuts had been hampered by a left flank that has cheered them on.

Adam Green, a founder of the liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which organized the letter, said the military cuts, so focused on procurement, “could change the culture of defense contracting for decades to come.” He also said the coming cuts were already rallying the liberal base to hold the line on entitlements.

Meanwhile, Times political editor Richard Stevenson gave Obama too much credit for budget-cutting sincerity in Thursday's "Budget Cuts Are Just the First Shots in a Long Battle Ahead," casting the GOP as the enemy to Obama's quest for a "legacy-enhancing bipartisan deal."

Having prevailed in getting a tax hike in January, Mr. Obama is now trying to break a cycle in which conservatives regularly thwart his hopes of a legacy-enhancing bipartisan deal that would bring down the deficit through a combination of further tax increases and cuts to the entitlement programs. And he is still trying, with a notable lack of success so far, to return budget negotiations to a normal legislative process in Congress rather than lurching from one crisis-infused deadline to the next.

What part of Obama's history of unilateral moves and big spending leads Stevenson to think Obama truly wants to join up with Republicans on actual cuts?