Republicans resist Obama's Jedi mind meld

 
US President Barack Obama speaks to the press at the White House 1 March 2013 Barack Obama claims his re-election gives him the support of the public to raise taxes

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President Barack Obama says he cannot force Republicans to agree with him by using a Jedi mind meld - but he is trying to paint the party in Congress as the dark side.

Speaking after a short and fruitless meeting at the White House, he said their actions would result in "unnecessary and inexcusable" cuts, and that thousands would lose their jobs and the recovery would be damaged.

Apart from the distress he has caused science fiction fans by apparently confusing Star Wars and Star Trek*, this will leave the Republican leadership fuming and feeling even less like doing a deal.

But the president's performance was not about winning an agreement but playing the blame game.

A moral mandate?

The automatic and deliberately harsh spending cuts have come because the politicians are so far apart they cannot agree to a sensible way of balancing the books.

House Speaker John Boehner outside the WHite House, 1 March 2013 John Boehner says revenue increases are off the table

Their dispute is simple and as old as the division between left and right.

Mr Obama wants to deal with the deficit, in part, with tax rises (or to be precise, by closing tax loopholes).

The Republican leader, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, insisted leaving the meeting that the president got his "tax hikes" in January, so now it was the time for spending cuts.

Mr Boehner has a point - some Republicans pointed out at the time that they had thrown away their best bargaining chip.

But Mr Boehner's low-key comments will hardly make headlines. The president's will.

He claimed that he had won the election on this very argument and even Republican voters said that the rich should pay more.

He said it was time for Republicans in Congress to catch up with their own voters and the American people.

That is not how the American system works. But Mr Obama was as insistent today as he has been ever since 6 November - his election victory gives him a moral mandate and deprives the Republicans of theirs.

He is determined to keep painting them as intransigent, uncaring and out of touch.

Several conservative commentators seem delighted to help him out, portraying these deep cuts as rather a fine thing.

The president's stated aim is to encourage public pressure on Congress and so free up moderate Republicans to do a deal.

This would, by definition, deepen splits in a fractious and demoralised party only just beginning a debate about its own future.

He seems determined to define the Republicans before they can re-define themselves.

Mr Obama may not have Jedi powers, but he knows how to kick a man when he is down.

*It seems likely the president was getting the impressive mental powers of the Star Wars Jedi knights confused with the Vulcan mind meld in Star Trek. Mr Obama is sometimes compared to Star Trek's emotionless and hyper-rational protagonist Mr Spock, and I can imagine him, hand gripped to the head of an alien humanoid of a startling orange hue. Or would that be a Vulcan death grip? But perhaps the scoffers are wrong and the president is an ultra nerd, and was referring to the Jedi battle mind meld mentioned in several Star Wars novels.

 
Mark Mardell, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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