Jul 30, 2011 3:14 PM GMT
I think that will be the narrative people will read into when judging Obama's presidency. His unwillingness to take the lead. In healthcare he let Congress draft a bill whose merits are as yet to be determined, there hasn't been a plan for Libya or Syria, and the latest being the budget debacle that he deliberately left to the last moment in an attempt to force Republicans to take his position. If the US defaults on its debt, it will be a direct result of Obama's unwillingness to compromise and the ideologues in the Senate.
House Speaker John Boehner has introduced two bills that would raise the nation's debt ceiling and end the current default crisis. The first, known as "Cut, Cap and Balance," was tabled by Senate Democrats without an up-or-down vote. The second, Boehner's plan to cut more than $900 billion in federal spending and raise the debt ceiling by a slightly smaller amount, could face a similar fate if it first passes the House.
For the Tea Party Republicans who make up a significant part of the House GOP caucus, Boehner's proposal is a significant retreat from "Cut, Cap and Balance." Those who support the Boehner proposal, which is formally known as the Budget Control Act, consider it a major compromise -- something they are backing only after being convinced that their first choice could never pass the Senate.
Throughout the debt dispute, President Obama has talked a lot about compromise. In his speech to the nation Monday, he used the word six times, saying America "has always been a grand experiment in compromise" but that in Washington lately, "compromise has become a dirty word." Obama's appearance at a University of Maryland town hall a few days before was a virtual seminar on compromise.
While Obama preaches the virtues of compromise, his Democratic allies and surrogates are bashing Republicans for rejecting what the White House characterizes as earnest, good-faith efforts to find common ground. "I hope that Speaker Boehner and [Minority] Leader McConnell will reconsider their intransigence," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said a few days ago. "Their unwillingness to compromise is pushing us to the brink of a default." (At the same time, Reid has been issuing absolute, inflexible statements like, "I will not support any short-term agreement.")
But the fact is, the Republicans who admitted defeat on "Cut, Cap and Balance" showed a unmistakable willingness to compromise. "The president has asked us to compromise," House Minority Leader Eric Cantor said Thursday afternoon. "We have compromised."
What about Obama? His compromises, if any, are more difficult to discern because the White House has been militantly secretive about its position. In the past few days, in fact, White House spokesman Jay Carney has gotten downright testy whenever reporters point out that Obama has never released a debt-ceiling plan, making it impossible to know exactly where he stands, and therefore whether he has compromised on any of his original positions.
"The idea that there is not an Obama plan is point No. 1 on the talking points issued by the Republican Party," Carney said Tuesday.
"It's not a talking point," responded Ed Henry, Fox News' White House correspondent. "That's unfair. Where is the plan?"