Saturday, August 06, 2011

WaPo Alternate Universe: Obama "Held Firm to His Initial Bottom Line" in Debt Ceiling Talks

The Washington Post -- faster than ever! -- has a front pager Saturday about congressional Democrats being upset with President Obama for his negotiating tactics over the debt ceiling ("Obama's friends unsettled by debt talks; Some Democrats fault willingness to compromise with GOP"). Toward the end, writer Peter Wallsten throws in this stunner:
By the final weekend of talks, as an agreement came into view, Obama held firm to his initial bottom line. No default, no second debt-limit vote.
Back in the real world, the President's initial bottom line was something rather different.

The White House had long called for a clean debt ceiling raise. As late as April 11 Jay Carney said: "we do not need to play chicken with our economy by linking the raising of the debt ceiling to anything. We should do that right away." And the following day: "we don’t believe, going back to questions I had yesterday, that there should be a link between efforts to address our long-term deficit problem and debt problem and the imperative of raising the debt ceiling." It was on April 15 that the President changed the line on including spending cuts at all, saying "I think it's absolutely right that it's not going to happen without some spending cuts." White House officials immediately insisted the administration still wanted a clean bill, though it was too late.

With that bottom line dropped, the White House moved to another big one: that if a bill was not "clean" it should include new revenues. The Administration pushed multiple plans to this effect, with substantial new revenues. The Washington Post, and pretty much every outlet, covered this rather extensively. On July 21, the White House was still insisting it wanted new revenue: "Anyone reporting a $3 trillion deal without revenues is incorrect. POTUS believes we need a balanced approach that includes revenue" tweeted Dan Pfeiffer, WH Communications Director. I think I even remember Obama giving a decent prime-time address on July 25th: "How can we ask a student to pay more for college before we ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries? How can we slash funding for education and clean energy before we ask people like me to give up tax breaks we don’t need and didn’t ask for? That’s not right. It’s not fair."

But it was becoming clear the White House was losing yet again, and it eventually agreed to a deal with no new revenues.

Only in the Post's alternate universe was the President's initial bottom line "No default, no second debt-limit vote."



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