spent yesterday dealing with computer problems and didn’t get to comment on one of the interesting moments of the debt ceiling debate-when the president of the United States walked out of the negotiations with these words:
This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this.
Now, that may sound heroic and principled. I can’t look into the president’s heart and mind, so I don’t know. But it seems to my cynical self that, with his presidency already troubled, President Obama is looking to the debt ceiling crisis to restore it.
Presidents sometimes leave negotiations when they can’t get what they require. Ronald Reagan (politely) left the Iceland summit without an agreement. Reagan’s firmness here led to the beginning of the end of the Cold War. He made his statement without indulging in histrionics-there was no supposedly valiant claim that he was willing to risk his presidency on the issue (though he was).
What was President Obama refusing to yield on? As far as I can tell, based on press reports, in this instance he was refusing to sign a short-term budget deal aimed at preventing default and giving the Democrats and Republicans more time. It was also interesting that, at one point, the president told Rep. Eric Cantor not to “call my bluff.” So was this a Freudian slip indicating that the President of the United States is bluffing?
Are the leaks coming from the negotiations showing President Obama as a man willing to reform entitlements untrue and designed to put the GOP in a bad light?
Charles Krauthammer takes the “bluff” slip seriously and urges Republicans to call it:
Anonymous talk is cheap. Leaks are designed to manipulate. Offers are floated and disappear.
Say it, Mr. President. Give us one single structural change in entitlements. In public.
As part of the pose as the forward-looking grown-up rising above all the others who play politics, Obama insists upon a long-term deal. And what is Obama’s definition of long-term? Surprise: An agreement that gets him past Nov. 6, 2012….
The Republicans are being totally outmaneuvered. The House speaker appears disoriented. It’s time to act. Time to call Obama’s bluff.
A long-term deal or nothing? The Republican House should immediately pass a short-term debt-ceiling hike of $500?billion containing $500?billion in budget cuts. That would give us about five months to work on something larger.
The fat-cat tax breaks (those corporate jets) that Obama’s talking points endlessly recycle? Republicans should call for urgent negotiations on tax reform along the lines of the Simpson-Bowles commission that, in one option, strips out annually $1.1?trillion of deductions, credits and loopholes while lowering tax rates across the board to a top rate of 23 percent. The president says he wants tax reform, doesn’t he? Well, Mr. President, here are five months to do so.
Will the Democratic Senate or the Democratic president refuse this offer and allow the country to default – with all the cataclysmic consequences that the Democrats have been warning about for months – because Obama insists on a deal that is 10 months and seven days longer?
That’s indefensible and transparently self-serving. Dare the president to make that case. Dare him to veto – or the Democratic Senate to block – a short-term debt-limit increase.
This is certainly better than the McConnell plan, which would simply throw debt reduction back to the president. But if the House cannot do Plan A, McConnell is the fallback Plan B.