Here I was, sitting with my car in the ditch, drinking my Slurpee, and listening to Obama’s speech. Obama once again said that we need a scalpel, not a machete, to the out-of-control federal budget.

The scalpel-vs.-machete cliche appears to date to at least 1980–and is almost always used by a Democrat. I’ve just added it to my Political Glossary:

Entry from April 13, 2011
Scalpel vs. Machete (budget-cutting techniques)
Entry in progress—B.P.

16 November 1980, New York (NY) Times, “Governors Press for New State Powers” by John Herbers, pg. 36:
Differences on Welfare
Even some long-time defenders of the multitude of Federal programs are entering the dialogue. Peter B. Edelman, an aide to Senator Edward M. Kennedy in the recent Kennedy Presidential campaign, said that in some respects he agreed with Governor Babbitt’s concern about excessive Federal control, but he warned some of the principals in the movement against using a “machete rather than a scalpel” in changing the system.

Google News Archive
29 January 1981, Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette, “Tax cut vs. budget cut: Debate goes on.” pg. 14, cols. 2-4:
But Walter W. Heller, who was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, argued that the Kemp-Roth bill would only serve to spur inflation by creating a greater demand for goods and services than the economy could accommodate.
(…)
Heller said that instead of the personal tax cut, “a more prudent course, one that would threaten less inflation and permit more deliberate action on budget cuts using a scalpel rather than a machete, would be to restructure the 1981 tax cut to put much more emphasis on tax incentives for investment and cost-cutting.”

Google News Archive
27 July 1982, The Courier (Prescott, AZ), pg. 14A, cols. 4-5:
Congress unlikely to change habits
White House will get its way until after elections
By BENJAMIN TAYLOR
Boston Globe
(…)
But that cut, proposed by Rep. Ronald Dellums (D-Calif.), was seen by many members who’d prefer a smaller defense budget as too radical a step, and it went down by a 348-55 margin. “That was a machete when what we needed was a scalpel,” said Rep. John Joseph Moakley (D-Mass.).

Still, it turned out that even the scalpel approach failed to draw much blood in the defense budget.

Real Clear Politics
February 15, 2011
Obama on Budget Cuts: A Scalpel, Not a Machete
By Scott Conroy
President Obama defended his proposed $3.73 trillion 2012 budget on Tuesday against criticisms that it would not go far enough in addressing the nation’s fiscal crisis in a manner that his own deficit commission suggested.

CBS News—Political Hotsheet
March 4, 2011 5:39 PM
Forget the machete, or the scalpel: Obama takes a butter knife to the budget
Posted by Chip Reid
President Obama said he’d take a scalpel to the budget instead of a machete. So far, though, he appears to be wielding a butter knife – trimming little more than soft edges.

Hot Air
Obama to offer “scalpel, not machete” for entitlement reform
posted at 9:30 am on April 11, 2011 by Ed Morrissey
Barack Obama has belatedly discovered that Americans want to see reductions in government spending.