Obama's Earned This One
by Deacon Blues
I'd like to blame the GOP for the crisis that is upon us with the debt ceiling, but let's also understand the role Barack Obama plays in this mess. Sure, the GOP is irresponsible yet knows exactly what it is doing when it threatens to not pass an increase. The problem is twofold for Obama: his negotiating record instructs the GOP to hold out for everything they want, and he fails to understand the GOP is actually serious about not passing an increase.
On the first point, David Frum on last night's "The Last Word" validly pointed the finger at Obama for showing weakness in his past negotiations. Frum maintains correctly that because Obama seems to start out in the middle and then caves towards the GOP's position, there is no reason for Boehner and McConnell at this point to not think they can squeeze Obama a little longer. Why cut a deal now and leave something on the table, only to get primaried by a Tea Party extremist back home for doing so? Their belief is only confirmed with the news yesterday that Obama is ready to offer up Medicare and Medicaid cuts if the GOP will agree to a large deal pegged at 90% cuts and 10% revenue increaes.
Why in the hell is Obama even willing to offer up a 90/10 deal in the first place? It wasn't Medicare and Medicaid that got us into the debt problem we face, it was the Bush tax cuts and the two wars Bush failed to pay for. Yet Obama is willing now to agree to a 90/10 deal, even though the public supports tax increases on the wealthy and doesn't want cuts in the safety net. It was only weeks ago that the Democrats stole a GOP congressional district in New York on the Medicare issue, and yet Obama has already tossed away that advantage.
On the second point, Obama lost the debate and narrative on this months ago, just like he lost the message on health care reform. Polls show the public thinks there will be no consequences from not passing a debt limit increase, which represents a White House failure to educate the public, and a missed opportunity to make it clear to the GOP they'll get blamed for this. Jim DeMint gave it away this morning, as Michelle Bachmann did last week when both said the country would not go into default, but rather simply pay the interest we owe and gut government spending to keep us under the current debt ceiling. A large part of the GOP actually believes Obama will do everything possible to avoid default, and can therefore be pushed to keep paying bondholders and slash spending, which gives the GOP what it wants anyway. Yet Obama hasn't once told the GOP that he won't do this, nor has he set the narrative and drawn a line in the sand with the GOP way back at the outset of this debacle that a default and the resulting banana-republic interest rate chaos and missed Social Security and Medicare payments will be laid at each GOP incumbent's feet in next year's election. Yet this late in the game, McConnell can say with a straight face that it has to be all cuts because he can't get the votes if anyone has to pay more in taxes. Obama has consistently misread the GOP and failed to understand the malignant forces he is up against.
As a result, we are left with the spectacle of a president wanting congressional Republicans to talk with him, only to see them refuse unless he follows his previous pattern and caves to them in advance. Because he has no real principles except to get reelected and get his face on Mount Rushmore some day, and because the GOP already has pushed him to 90/10, why would Boehner and McConnell do anything different, especially when many in their ranks are so uncaring about the consequences of a default?
Lastly, when the president's feeble lackeys were crowing about their tax deal with the GOP after the midterms, after the White House made a point of bypassing congressional Democrats, they could have also nailed down the debt ceiling deal at that time. They didn't, and now have no one to blame but themselves for what is happening now.