President Obama has failed to show leadership as Congress struggles to reduce the nation's daunting debt problems, former Sen. Judd Gregg said.
To convince Americans to make the difficult choices to reduce the debt and deficit burden will require a concerted effort from both sides, the New Hampshire Republican said an interview with CNBC.
But the Democratic president has not taken the lead, declining even to push for the recommendations of his own deficit reduction committee, of which Gregg was a member, he said.
"The table was set. All the president had to do was step forward and give us leadership," Gregg said. "We've had virtually no leadership coming out of this White House on this issue of fiscal responsibility."
The criticism comes at a time when Congress is trying to fix its debt and deficit issuesdomestically, and European peripheral nations such as Greece and Portugal are forced to do the same.
Gregg noted the danger in which the US finds itself and said the Republican presidential field has a number of solid candidates who can challenge Obama.
"We're either going to have a fiscal crisis where the world loses confidence in the dollar and we find it hard to sell our debt—that's going to occur within I believe the next four to five years—or you're going to step up and do something substantive on the fiscal policy side," he said. "If the president wants to be president his job is to lead the nation, and we need some action on these accounts."
In addition to his criticism of Obama, he also faulted a plan from Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican, who floated his own austerity plan that has run into strong political opposition, in part because of an aggressive revamping of the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Gregg said the big fault in Ryan's plan was that it was cast as a Republican fix and did not include enough input from the Democratic side.
"You've got to do this in concert, together. You've got to hold hands on these big issues like Medicare and Social Security," Gregg said. "American people don't accept action on these accounts unless they deem them to be fair. And fairness, by definition in American politics, means it must be bipartisan and it must have presidential leadership."