Jewish World Review July 27, 2011 26 Tamuz, 5771
It's Not the Policy, It's the Politics
By Roger Simon
This news was actually exhilarating in the way that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck: According to CNN, which broke the story at 11:23 p.m., "the president has cancelled two political fundraising appearances Monday night because of the debt ceiling situation."
Lord o' mighty, grab the kids and head for the shelters.
A politician skipping a fundraiser? Would a baby skip milk? Would a fish skip water? Would Kirstie Alley skip an eclair?
And for the first time, I knew this debt talk stuff was really serious. I admit that I don't fully understand the whirl of figures, the billions and trillions, that have been flying back and forth between the Democrats and Republicans, the White House and the Congress for all these weeks.
The facts are difficult to grasp, which is why it is so much easier to listen to the spin.
The Democratic spin: Republicans want to slash spending, including to the poor, the sick and the elderly, but do not want to raise even a penny of taxes on billionaires who laugh at us from the decks of their yachts and are rich enough to order cashews from room service.
The Republican spin: The Democrats want to permanently end job creation in America through runaway spending and bone-crushing taxes. Without jobs, Americans will become slaves to the socialists in the White House, who will dole out meager food rations to the starving in exchange for their guns.
I had always thought, however, that the differences between the two parties would be worked out before Aug. 2, the day the United States will default on its debt, money will become worthless and the global economy will be reduced to a system of barter. (Department of Full Disclosure: I have been hoarding AA batteries in anticipation of such a day. Will trade for video games.)
But why would either side want economic collapse? How would either party be served by crisis and ruin?
As the days have gone by, it has become more and more clear that the current negotiations have nothing to do with "debt limits" and "deficit cuts." They don't even have to do with Aug. 2, 2011.
They have everything to do with Nov. 6, 2012.
It is very difficult to make predictions, especially about the future, as Yogi Berra once said, but it seems obvious to say that if the economy does not improve, Barack Obama will be vulnerable in next year's election.
No Republican is going to beat him on abortion, or civil unions, or gays in the military, or any other social issue. No Republican is going to beat him on foreign affairs, as Obama ends one war, winds down another and risks no American lives in a third.
But when it comes to unemployment, job creation and the general lousy state of the economy, Obama can be defeated by a reasonable Republican who presents a credible alternative to Obama's economic policies. (Screaming, "No new taxes ever!" is not a credible alternative.)
So in order to take down the president and his party, strengthen their grip on the House and possibly win the Senate, the Republicans cannot allow Obama to have a victory in the current negotiations. This is why House Speaker John Boehner broke off direct talks with the president recently, saying he would work out a deal with congressional leaders, instead.
Obama needs an agreement so he can move on and focus laser-like on creating jobs. And he has made concessions. But he has a left wing of his party to wrestle with (just as Boehner has the tea party wing of his party), which is why at all his news conferences, Obama has taken some pains to portray Republicans as untrustworthy, unreasonable and nearly unconscious.
As NBC's daily political blog "First Read" pointed out Monday, the Republicans have essentially won their victory already by tying deficit reduction to the debt ceiling, and the Democrats "have indicated their willingness to pay the ransom."
So what's the problem? The Republicans want their victory to look even bigger, reducing the influence of Obama even further. The "president doesn't want to look like he can't lead, even a broken Washington," First Read said, "and the Republicans want to prove they can govern."
And so day after day we get positioning, posturing and politicians sitting on their posteriors.
Now, however, something explosive has happened. The president is skipping two fundraisers to demonstrate his commitment to saving the nation.
And if we can get John Boehner to skip two sessions on his tanning bed, we can keep hope alive.
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© 2009, Creators Syndicate