President Obama held a feisty press conference on Friday in which he chastised Republicans, particularly House Speaker John Boehner, for walking away from the latest — and possibly final — round of debt ceiling negotiations.
A clearly frustrated Obama said he has been “left at the altar a couple of times” by Boehner, who Obama said has some “trouble with his caucus” of Tea Party freshmen, and who even failed to return the president’s phone call.
Obama said he went into the negotiations prepared to help Republicans pursue their stated goal of deficit reduction, and to “take some heat” from his party base over proposed “adjustments” to entitlement programs in exchange for between $400 billion and $800 billion in tax revenues. He said he wound up wondering, “can they say yes to anything?”
WATCH BARACK OBAMA’S REMARKS ON BOEHNER’S EXIT FROM TALKS:
Now, the president has called the House and Senate leadership to the White House on Saturday to “tell (him) how we’re gonna get this done.” And any deal must extend the debt limit beyond the 2012 election, an outcome that, incidentally, would be good politically, for the president.
It was a different Obama on display than the cool — some say too cool — president Americans have gotten used to over the last two and a half years. In one extended riff, the president referred to the “hard working folks” who “know they’re getting a raw deal…and are mad at everybody in Washington” because of it.
He then slammed those (read Republicans) who Instead of looking out for those struggling Americans, are worrying more about primary challenges, “funders”, talk radio hosts, columnists, and “pledges” they’ve signed — a clear reference to the Americans for Tax Reform pledge to never, ever raise taxes, signed by most congressional Republicans, and enforced on the Hill by ATR president Grover Norquist.
Boehner responded by accusing Obama of “moving the goal posts” on revenues, and said negotiating with the White House was like negotiating with “Jell-O.”
Insults aside, Boehner is smart enough to know that in a contest for the bully pulpit, a president trumps a House speaker, every time. And after pulling an Eric Cantor and walking out on negotiations, Speaker Boehner looks like a teacher who’s just been scolded by the principal for not being able to control his class.
In the end, when Republicans finally relent and allow the debt ceiling to be raised — and they will, because facing the wrath of Wall Street scares the GOP more than even the Tea Party — they will have allowed Obama to win the debt ceiling fight, and the politics.
By being relentless, and relentlessly reasonable, often at the risk of inciting rebellion among Hill Democrats; and even having long since lost the message war on deficit reduction versus jobs and stimulus, Obama has cast himself in the role of the last reasonable man in Washington.
It’s an often forgotten part of the way he ran in 2008; not just as Mr. Hope and Change, but also as the one guy in Washington who was untainted by its considerable flaws and who would try and bring reason and cooperation to a squabbling Capitol.
Clearly, Obama has failed to change the culture in Washington. In fact, his very presence, from his name to his cultural background to wild conspiracy theories about his ideology — has seemed to incite a near frenzy of hatred on the right (and a sliver of the far left)
That overreaction has allowed Obama to propose compromise after compromise which forces his opponents to expose their dark sides. If they won’t accept even deficit reduction, entitlement and tax reform if it has his name on it, to quote the president, what can they say yes to?
When the smoke clears, the White House is betting most American will tire of the bomb throwers (and that Wall Street will think twice about playing ball with them) — and side with the grown-up.