Remember last week, when President Obama threw a fit and stormed out of budget negotiations with the House Republican leadership? Do you recall what made him blow a fuse? It was when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor suggested a short-term deal to raise the debt limit a bit, because Democrats and Republicans could use more time to settle their differences.
Personally, I’m more than a little tired of short-term deals. We’ve had over 800 days of punting. I thought the federal government was supposed to be a $3.7 trillion high-performance engine of central planning and economic wisdom. That’s the reason given for allowing it to take over car companies, bail out banks, and seize control of health insurance. I don’t know how liberals can make such arguments with a straight face, when the Leviathan has been thrashing around for over two years without a budget.
At any rate, I was not in the room last Wednesday, but Barack Obama was. His response to Cantor’s short-term deal proposal was to snarl, “I’ve reached my limit. This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this.” Then he walked out of the room.
Realizing how childish and petulant this made the President look, liberals flocked to talk shows and online discussion forums, desperately insisting that Obama’s walkout was a principled act of statesmanship. The Great Leader was right to punctuate his dismissal of short-term deals by letting Eric Cantor eat doorknob. A grand bargain must be reached at once. The time for dragging feet was over, and the hour for putting them down was at hand!
Today the Obama temper tantrum, like all of his promises and rhetoric, reached its expiration date, as Fox News reports:
The White House encouraged congressional leaders to reach a major deficit-reduction deal by offering them a little more time, as they scrambled to find a way to prevent a government default in less than two weeks.
President Barack Obama would accept a short-term increase in the federal government’s $14.29 trillion borrowing limit if congressional leaders reach agreement on a “significant” deficit-reduction plan before Aug. 2 but need more time to pass legislation, a White House spokesman said Wednesday.
This is going to be tough for Obama defenders to deal with. What happened to the mighty lion who gave Eric Cantor a face full of his swishing tail, because opposing short-term deals was important enough to risk his presidency?
A couple of things have changed last week. The big one is that Obama sees the momentum of the debt ceiling battle turning against him. His polls are horrible. The Mitch McConnell plan to give him full control over the national debt provoked outrage. His scare tactics have blown up in his face. Even the media is growing uncomfortable with his performance. ABC’s Jake Tapper has taken to asking questions that make White House spokesmen crash and reboot.
The other big change is the Gang of Six proposal, an escape hatch for spendaholic politicians who want a way to get off the hook without serious spending cuts. The Gang of Six plan will let them increase the national debt by 50% instead of 80%, which is the kind of pain Washington can grudgingly live with. Of course, a lot of its mechanisms for getting the debt increase down to 50% involve triggers that form committees which can be ignored, and promises a future Congress can shred, so it will end up growing by 75%, and in a few years all the wise men will be pulling their beards and wondering how that happened.
The problem for Obama and the Democrats is that while a distressing amount of the Republican leadership appears willing to cave in and embrace the Gang of Six $20 Trillion National Debt Plan, it won’t be ready for a vote by August 2. It’s only a six-page proposal right now. It takes time to blow that up into 2000 pages of legislation that nobody will read before voting on it.
Hence, the White House is suddenly all in favor of the short-term deal Obama said he will not yield on. Give him a day or two, and he’ll make a speech where he insists, “As I have always said, a short-term agreement is a wise measure to give Congress the time it needs for crafting the best possible legislation.” Then he’ll portray himself as taking the wise middle road between “those who say” Washington should be burned to the ground, and “others who say” Washington should just spend $20 trillion right now, to purchase prosperity and comfort for every single citizen.
Childish temper tantrum aside, he had it right the first time… but deadlines are only useful when they put pressure on the people who want to make government smaller.