A reader expert in these matters doesn’t think that Barack Obama is either P.T. Barnum or Secretary Mellon:
The “freeze” (really a cap, as Mark has noted) is important beyond symbolism, not so much for overall budget deficit reduction but to get some discipline over spending. A few years back progressives mounted a campaign to reform farm subsidies in the farm bill – important for agriculture development in poor countries as well as domestic equity and environmental concerns in addition to budget – but the whole effort collapsed because there was no budget constraint on the Ag committees. If a cap had been in place, reform would have been much more likely to succeed. This is part of an effort to put budget discipline back in the political system.
A meta-comment: I find it striking how eager some of my friends are to make Barack Obama the scapegoat. The willingness of progressives to believe the worst about our leaders when we hit a rough patch is not among our strengths. If the worst thing Obama ever does is use a poll-tested word like “freeze” where it isn’t strictly appropriate, he’ll be the most saintly President of the 44.