Thursday, August 04, 2011

Triangulation Man: Debt Ceiling Aftermath



President Barack Obama wanted to appear centrist. Which is why Obama caved on the debt ceiling deal. The Real Clear Politics poll tracker shows Obama's job approval rating dipping to 44 percent. To make matters worse, the stock market went down 512.76 points. Translation: the gains the market made in 2011 were wiped out. Obama admitted yesterday that the debt ceiling crisis has hurt the economy.


"Unfortunately the debt ceiling crisis over the last month, I think, has had an unnecessary negative impact on the economy ... as well," he said.


My question is why did Obama placed being portrayed as centrist? I don't buy that Obama or Congressional Republicans were seriously concerned about the budget deficit or national debt. Otherwise, both sides would not have allowed the FAA to lose $1 billion in tax revenue. Obama threw the Social Security surplus on the table. Republicans took corporate jet tax breaks off the table. The White House thinks pissing off their base will make them appear more centrist. Republicans are terrified that their base will turn on them if they do anything that smells like a tax increase. The truth is most voters care about Social Security and could care less about corporate jet tax breaks. This tells you how far disconnected Washington is from reality.

Former President Bill Clinton prepared himself for Republicans using the debt ceiling against him.


“Here’s what happened, as I remember – but let me back up a second,” Clinton said. “I have read accounts of that time where people at Treasury have been interviewed, and they say they did look into [the president's authority to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval].” As for the Republicans, “they did think about doing that" -- withholding approval of a higher limit -- "and I knew they were thinking about it.” But the question ultimately did not arise for Clinton, he says, because his opponents in Congress decided “they didn’t want to get caught” in a position where they appeared to be repudiating the debt incurred by their own party’s two previous presidents.

“The reason that raising the debt limit is so unpopular is that people think you’re voting to keep [increasing] deficit spending, instead of voting to honor obligations that were already incurred,” he said. “I think [the Gingrich Republicans] figured I’d be smart enough to explain to the American people that they were refusing to pay for the expenses they had voted for when Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were president. And that would make ‘em look bad.”


How the 14th amendment argument would have played out is unknown. What is known is Clinton used the behind the scenes threat of executive power and telling the American people that the debt was created from Republican presidential spending. People will argue that Clinton was dealing with a different congress than Obama.

If you mean the Congress that had members that would later try to impeach Clinton out of office then you are correct. Republicans held both the House and Senate during the 1995 government shutdowns. Like the tea party elected officials under Boehner and McConnell, the Contract With America Republicans were insane. George Stephanopoulos detailed how Dole gave up trying to control his caucus and went to Iowa to campaign. Gingrich complained to the Clinton White House that he couldn't control his newly elected radicals. This is exactly what Clinton wanted and how he got the Republicans to cave. Boehner had trouble passing his own debt ceiling plan with his own caucus. It would have been easy for someone with Clinton's skills to play Boehner, Cantor, McConnell and the tea party Republicans off of each other.

What enabled Republicans is they knew Obama would flinch and want to appear centrist. Sen. Tom Coburn rightfully said that Obama would sign any debt ceiling bill that reached his desk.



The DCCC wants to attack House Republicans for supporting Medicare cuts. Apparently, the DCCC is forgetting that the President actively pushed for Medicare cuts in the debt deal. The so-called Super Congress will likely support entitlement cuts. If and when that happens several Democrats will have a hard time explaining why they voted for the debt ceiling deal.

I am not excusing the Republicans reckless behavior for one second. However, Obama was elected to "change" the way things are done in Washington. Not use Dick Morris' triangulation playbook as a means to govern. I wrote posts before Obama was elected president that he is not a progressive. I didn't expect to agree with Obama on every policy. I was expecting Obama to govern with competency. Watching Obama govern with super-majorities was painful. Government has now become utterly incompetent. Obama certainly can't be blamed for everything, but this do nothing Congress and stock market crash is on his watch.

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