Monday, August 1, 2011

Debt ceiling score: GOP 1, Obama & American people, 0.

Posted By on Mon, Aug 1, 2011 at 1:12 PM

The debt ceiling fiasco has been a shock. Just a month ago, it would have been hard to believe our government was that dysfunctional. True, GOP obstructionism had practically brought Congress to a halt, particularly during the health care reform battles. But it took a nihilistic minority, aka Tea Partiers, to hold the country hostage over raising the debt ceiling. And it took an overly compliant, to put it kindly, president bending to the GOP’s will to let the tea clan get away with extortion.

I obviously cannot speak for all progressives, but I personally don’t know anyone to the left of John Boehner who isn’t disgusted with the D.C. dysfunction, and who isn’t furious with Barack Obama. I came to the conclusion long ago, during the health reform mess, that the President doesn’t have a lot of political savvy. Now I think I overrated him. In terms of politics, how in the world you can have your opponents on the defensive and looking like bitter loons, only to cave in to nearly everything they wanted a week later, is way beyond my ability to understand — much less congratulate, as the clueless-as-usual D.C. press corps is reacting to “the deal.”

Two op-ed columns from the New York Times today are on the money about the deal and Obama’s performance. Here’s an excerpt from Paul Krugman:

If [the deal] goes through, many commentators will declare that disaster was avoided. But they will be wrong.

For the deal itself, given the available information, is a disaster, and not just for President Obama and his party. It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America’s long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status.

These are serious charges, but it’s time to face the unpleasant facts: the citizens of this country are truly screwed for the foreseeable future; the government is now of, by, and for major corporate and Wall St. interests; and the White House is now run by people who think surrendering the principles of their (formerly) strongest supporters to know-nothings on the right is a good idea.

The other Times op-ed is from Russ Douhat, whom I rarely agree with on much of anything. Today, though, he nails Obama’s role in the debt ceiling debacle:

But winning a debate on points isn’t a substitute for looking like a leader. It’s one thing to bemoan politics-as-usual when you’re running for the White House. It’s quite another to publicly throw up your hands over our “dysfunctional government” when you’re the man the voters put in charge of it.

The major problem, as I see it, is that Obama — for some unknown, perhaps never to be understood reason — thinks he can win battles that are fought completely on the GOP’s ground, i.e., the notions that debt and deficits are the country’s number one problem, and military spending is sacrosanct. As William Greider writes in The Nation, “He made the choice more than a year ago to push aside the real problem — the vast loss and suffering generated by a failing economy.” So to hell with new jobs, and forget about the crumbling American middle-class, formerly the envy of the world. The deficit hawks, the bloated “defense” industry and Wall Street are happy, and in the end, that’s all that really matters, right?

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