Obama Can’t Get Out of His Own Way
Watching President Obama blunder his way through the government shutdown and the debt ceiling fight has been jaw-dropping. The president can’t seem to score political points even when the other side is fumbling the ball in their own end zone.
Regardless of what you think of the GOP’s tactics going into the shutdown, the polling has been pretty clear that Republicans are shouldering more of the blame than Democrats. All Obama had to do to capitalize was get out of their way.
Instead, his OMB imposed a series of petty, penny ante shutdowns on locations like the open-air World War II Memorial. The resulting anger from the public has led to plans for a Million Vet March on the mall this weekend. To add insult to injury, police actually removed a man from the Lincoln Memorial grounds yesterday who was voluntarily mowing the grass so that it would look nice for America’s veterans. And this whole drama is playing out within a week or so of Harry Reid’s gaffe making it sound like Democrats weren’t interested in funding research to help children with cancer. When you’re offending World War II vets and terminally ill kids, you’re generally doing politics wrong.
The theatrics are little more than a sideshow, however — and that’s probably the reason they haven’t moved the polls any. We’re now coming to the point, though, when the two sides are negotiating over the real substance of these issues. Just a little while ago, the New York Times put up a story saying that the President had rejected a Republican offer to pass a six-week extension of the debt ceiling. In the time it’s taken me to draft this post, they’ve changed it to say only that they’ve “failed to reach agreement” and that both sides are still talking.
If Obama has any sense, he’ll take this deal. The Republican willingness to pass a short-term fix to the debt ceiling represents an acknowledgment that the consequences of not doing so are decidedly more dangerous that those attending a government shutdown (have you noticed that life hasn’t been much different while official Washington is on hiatus?). If the President shoots it down, he will begin to look like the absolutist and he will seem like the one who’s playing Russian roulette with the country in order to bolster his political standing. With any other president, it’d be unfathomable. Obama, however, has a special gift for unforced errors.