President Obama Monday, confronting the looming debate ceiling crisis, came the closest he has to singling out the “tea party movement” and its allies in Congress. At a press conference, he laid the lash of his blame for the debt ceiling debate “on a small group in the House” who want to “hijack the process.”
The president left no doubt that when he spoke of Congress, he meant the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and would blame them if a last minute frenzy occurred over raising the debt ceiling in March.
Either Congress, he said, “can act responsibly and pay its bills, or act irresponsibly.” He also tossed off some aphorisms on the issue that are sure to be deployed over and over when Obama takes his call for lifting the debt ceiling to the road: “We are not a deadbeat nation,” “(Republicans) have a gun at the head of the American people,” among them.
Two hours after he gave notice to White House correspondents that he would hold a press conference in the East Room, President Obama stepped to the podium to say “America cannot afford another debate” over paying its bills.
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Barely touched on but possibly more newsworthy than his salvos on the debt ceiling, however, was his remark that, once he receives and digests the recommendations on gun control from the commission chaired by Vice President Biden, “some I can accomplish by executive acts.” Pressed as to precisely what he could accomplish by executive acts rather than an act of Congress, Obama cited as an example “how we are gathering data.” He then jumped to the offensive, and, in a not-so-veiled hit at the National Rifle Association, said “those who oppose any common sense measure have a pretty effective way of ginning up fear.”
Such tactics, he added, are “good for business.”
But the president’s opening statement and replies to questions–all but three of which dealt with the debt ceiling–were very familiar: that failure to raise the debt ceiling means troops will not be payed and contracts with small businesses honored, that investors worldwide will “ask if the U.S. is a safe bet,” and how the last time this came close to happening, “the whole fiasco added to the deficit.”
As press secretary Jay Carney did at his press briefings last week, the president made it clear he was not going to negotiate that much on reforming entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In his words, “it makes a lot more sense to close the corporate loopholes” than to put a burden on senior citizens. He also charged that “you can’t meet (House Republicans’) own criterion without cutting Medicare or Medicaid” and indicated strongly he was not going to do this.
The president concluded by drawing a few laughs by responding to criticisms he didn’t socialize enough by saying people who knew him would confirm “I’m a pretty friendly guy and I like a good party.” He also invited Republicans to come join him and “play cards” at the White House or something social like that. But, invoking the image of former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist–who was challenged for the GOP Senate nomination after being photographed embracing the president and eventually left the Republican Party–President Obama said that many might back away from getting too close to him out of fear of sharing that fate.
Perhaps. But the tone the president took about his critics Monday might also be a reason so many do not see any reason for sitting down with him.