Our political Quote of the Day comes from David Frum, the former assistant to President George Bush, who has often broken with modern-day conservatives. He looks at the debt ceiling crisis and President Barack Obama’s comments on it and wonders if Obama is out of his league in terms of toughness:
How lame is this answer?
Let’s count the ways.
1) The stuff about corporate jets is just … crapola really. It’s the Democratic equivalent of Republicans pretending that the deficit can be closed by cutting PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts. If Obama, the supposed grownup in the room, wants to make the case for revenue measures, let him make the case for relevant revenue measures.
2) 30 or so days before a forced default on the financial obligations of the United States seems a poor choice of a time for negotiations over budget measures. Why is Obama allowing himself to be engaged in this way?
3) Why for that matter is Obama surrendering to the demand to change the subject from jobs to deficits? Surely Obama believes that rapid budget-cutting will be deflationary? And therefore irresponsible in the context of 10% unemployment, near-zero inflation, and 1% interest rates on federal debt? Why has he allowed himself to be pushed into measures he regards as irresponsible?
4) Beyond that why isn’t he yelling his head off about the Republican default threat? Why isn’t he being specific about what it could mean? And why isn’t he doing what Lyndon Johnson would do – making it clear that if H-Hour does arrive, he’ll use disbursement power just as politically as Republicans are using the power of the debt ceiling: eg, paying Medicaid bills from Blue states first, Red states later? Paying farmers and other Republican constituencies with IOUs, while hoarding cash for Democratic voters?
5) For that matter, why isn’t he hammering home the point that Bruce Bartlett makes in this column.
The Constitution itself emphatically states that the public debt of the United States “shall not be questioned.” Yet these so-called conservative constitutionalists are doing precisely that, calling that public debt into question by refusing to vote the federal government the instrumentalities to pay its obligations.
On this issue, Obama has passed the point where he looks reasonable. He looks too weak to do the job of the presidency. And we are all left to wonder if he looks weak because he is weak.
Frum is one of a host of Republicans most identified with Ronald Reagan and the two George Bushes not happy about what their party is doing on the debt ceiling issue — taking the issue to the brink and increasingly seeming to dismiss the importance of raising it. He quotes Bartlett, who worked for Reagan.