The media should instead focus greater attention on Congress, which writes the tax and budget legislation that determines how the federal government spends its money. Obama has relatively little leverage over the Republicans who control the House of Representatives, almost all of whom represent districts he lost in 2012. And while the sequester was designed to be so onerous that it would force both parties to compromise, avoiding the the sequester would still require substantial political pain, making it difficult for the administration to herd legislators toward a deal.

Don’t feel too sorry for Obama, though. The President and his staff made dubious claims during the fall campaign that his re-election would “break the fever” among Congressional Republicans, so they shouldn’t be surprised that the media are now looking to him to miraculously cure what ails Washington.


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Brendan Nyhan is an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College. He blogs at and tweets @BrendanNyhan.