Debt Limit Endgame: Changing Perceptions
We are approaching end-game in the fight over raising the debt-limit. And as we can see from today’s hit-job by Jackie Calmes of the NY Slimes (link below), the perception that the President is the reasonable one focused on debt reduction, while the GOP are a bunch of idealogues, is “gelling” (or arguably has already “gelled”) among establishment media:
But here is what we know: President Obama’s biggest potential vulnerability is still from his left. To be precise, so long as there remains enough time for President Obama to face a primary challenge from his left (Howard Dean, Russ Fiengold, the alien from Ohio) it’s in his political interest to dig in against Republicans. That’s why he’s digging in: because if he caves, then he’s going to get primaried.
And if he gets primaried, he’s toast.
I believe our leaders should begin pointing this out in press interviews: that one of the reasons President Obama is being so intractable is that he has to guarantee he’ll avoid a primary challenge, ala Jimmy Carter in 1980.
Here’s an example of how Boehner might phrase it in a high-profile interview this weekend (e.g. 60 Minutes, which I strongly suggest the GOP try and arrange):
Well Scott, we believe our plan is quite reasonable and balanced. First, some context: baseline government spending has grown tremendously the past few years under President Obama. It’s not like the Federal government has been starved for resources the past couple of years. We believe the govenment needs at least $6 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years, but we’re only asking for $2.4 trillion because we know how important the debt limit is, and we don’t want to make it politically impossible for this President to sign. We’re also not demanding, and many members of our caucus want to demand this, but we’ve decided not to demand that Obamacare be repealed in exchange for raising the country’s debt limit. Again, we know that would just make it politically impossible for President Obama to sign, and we view raising the debt limit as too important to play political football with.
I mean Scott, $2.4 trillion represents less than 6% of what the Federal government is currently slated to spend over the next 10 years. Do you know of any organization that isn’t being asked to “do more with less”? Well, why shouldn’t the Federal government?
And note that the President has indicated in public and private that he’d actually accept cuts in the neighborhood of what we’re asking, so long as we also raise taxes. This is important Scott: it’s not as if the President is saying that the level of government expenditures we’re laying out are unacceptable….just that they’re unacceptable UNLESS we give him something to take back to his liberal base.
And Scott, therein lies the heart of why I think President Obama has come off so defensively in both private and public during this whole debate: his Presidency is careening towards a repeat of Jimmy Carter’s. Anemic growth, high unemployment, and high inflation. And President Obama knows that just as Jimmy Carter was weakened by a primary challenge, he could be also. So long as there is time for a Democrat to mount a primary challenge to Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination, he can’t even pretend to move to the center. He has to dig in for the hard left, which in this case means either mandating higher taxes or maintaining the extremely elevated levels of government spending he was able to implement during his first 2 years, while Democrats still ran Congress.
Quite frankly, I think one of the things that could really help free President Obama to do the right thing here, and accept what is a very reasonable, responsible, and balanced approach we’ve put forward is if Howard Dean, Russ Feingold, Dennis Kuccinnich and some other potential primary challengers to President Obama can come out publicly and state unequivacolly that they will not do so. Taking that off the table for this President, taking off the table a potential primary challenge would, I think, go a long way towards giving this President the political room he needs in order to meet us halfway here.
Scott, we all agree the debt limit needs to be raised. And the President has laid out some very dire scenarios, in terms of consequences, if we don’t. For the President to not sign the debt-limit increase we’re going to pass this week, that will have spending cuts that he’s already indicated he can accept were they accompanied with tax increases (which they won’t be, not by us), is unconscionable. For him to put the country in jeapordy over a level of spending cuts that he’s said he can accept, just to appease his hard-left base and ensure he doesn’t get a primary challenge ala Jimmy Carter, is simply unconscionable.
It’s time for this President, a liberal in both mind and heart, to accept the fact that his vision of a dramatically and permanently larger federal government is NOT going to be a reality. At least not as long as we’re running the House of Representatives.