Jeffrey T. Kuhner
The Washington Times
Adolescent walkout reveals president’s desire to manufacture calamity
President Obama is on the verge of a crackup. The debt-limit talks are beginning to take their toll. On Wednesday, the president stormed out of a meeting with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Like a petulant adolescent, Mr. Obama blamed the Virginia Republican for opposing a “grand bargain.”
Yet Mr. Obama is to blame for the current political crisis. He refused to engage in discussions about lifting the debt ceiling until very late in the process. He has not been serious about controlling runaway deficits. In fact, the budget he proposed earlier this year dramatically boosted federal spending. It was voted down in the Senate 97-0. Even Democrats considered it irresponsible and reckless.
Mr. Obama has buried America under a mountain of debt. His claim to be above partisan bickering, a supposedly frustrated patriotic statesman who is worried about our long-term debt bomb, is preposterous; it is merely a charade. He is playing to the TV cameras.
For weeks, the administration has argued that unless the government’s borrowing authority is lifted, Uncle Sam will default after Aug. 2, leading to economic turmoil — and maybe fiscal collapse. Mr. Obama even has played the Grandma card, threatening seniors with not receiving their Social Security benefits.
“I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on Aug. 3 if we haven’t resolved this issue,” he told CBS News. “Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it.”
This is shameless demagoguery. The president knows full well that Washington will continue to take in more than enough to pay easily for Social Security as well as other basic government services — including the financing of our debt. The sky will not fall if an agreement is not reached by Aug. 2. At worst, there may be a partial government shutdown, but that would take several weeks. Hence, the GOP — and the nation — should not be bull-rushed into accepting any deal.
The reason for Mr. Obama’s political — and perhaps psychological — disintegration is a simple one: He is in a corner. He wants a “big” deal,” one that would slash $4 trillion from the deficit over 10 years. In particular, he insists on huge, $1 trillion tax increases, which would deliver a death blow to the staggering economy and most probably send it into a depression. Moreover, he has publicly vowed that he will veto short-term debt-limit raises coupled with equal spending cuts. In short, he has boxed himself into a my-way-or-the-highway negotiating strategy.
Republicans understand that agreeing to any new taxes would violate their seminal campaign pledge. House Republican fiscal hawks are right to insist on a short-term deal that makes any increase in the debt ceiling contingent upon accompanying spending reductions. This would avoid destructive tax increases, force the administration to accept substantial cuts and call Mr. Obama’s bluff. Either he vetoes the House GOP-backed bill and throws America into default — for which he will be solely blamed — or he capitulates, signs the legislation and is exposed as a political weakling. This is why Mr. Obama exploded at Mr. Cantor and walked out. He is desperately trying to bully Republicans into breaking their promise to voters.
“I have reached the point where I say enough,” Mr. Obama said, according to Reuters news agency. “Would Ronald Reagan be sitting here? I’ve reached my limit. This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this.”
If that’s the case, Republicans should let him go down. Mr. Obama’s refusal to contemplate a short-term deal reveals that he wants permanent higher revenues — tax increases — to finance his entitlement society. This has been his Machiavellian plan all along. If that’s not possible, he then wants the other debt-limit option: a blank check. Raise the ceiling without any cuts.
That is what Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell plans to give him. The Republicans are the Palestinians of American politics: They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. With Mr. Obama on the ropes, Mr. McConnell is throwing in the towel. He argues that any agreement with the president is impossible and the GOP will be politically eviscerated if there is a government shutdown. Therefore, Mr. McConnell is putting forth a convoluted plan that would enable Mr. Obama to vote himself three successive debt-ceiling increases totaling $2.5 trillion — enough to get the government past the 2012 election — without Republican votes. The minority leader thinks this will make the president own the debt-limit issue. The record deficits, the skyrocketing debt, the addiction to spending — all of this clearly would be pinned on Mr. Obama.
Mr. McConnell is wrong. The GOP rightly will be blamed by its base and independents for selling out. America can no longer sustain its borrowing-and-spending binge: We are going broke. If Republicans cannot block Mr. Obama’s voracious socialist appetites, what good are they? A blank check would dangerously rack up the debt, demoralize the Tea Party and cripple the GOP’s credibility as champions of fiscal responsibility and small government. It easily could spark a third-party movement.
Mr. McConnell’s proposal enables Mr. Obama to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The president is in free fall. He is a victim of his own colossal hubris and incompetence. Don’t throw him a lifeline.