Thursday, June 30, 2011

Damned If You do...Damned If You Don't!

The President weighed in on the debt ceiling debate yesterday.    
If you are of the liberal persuasion you were no doubt pleased to watch the President chastise Congress for their work ethic while making the case for eliminating tax cuts for the wealthy.
If you are a conservative you probably found the President to be overly confrontational as he laid blame for the impasse on the shoulders of Congress; specifically on its Republican members.
The President said Congress should cancel their summer recess and get the debt ceiling issue resolved.  He said his daughters don’t wait until the last minute to get their homework done (“they’re not pulling all-nighters”)...and neither should Congress.  He said that corporate big wigs could keep their jets “they just need to pay a little more.”
As expected his confrontational tone provided red meet for the media.  Pundits jumped on the story with reviews as far ranging as those of the politicians.  Many saw the President as “bold” and “forceful” while another felt he was “being a bit of a dick”.
This President has often been criticized for seeming distant and aloof when it comes to resolving important issues.  He has been criticized for taking the “mushy middle.” Many have said he is more concerned with being liked than he is with taking a stand.
That is until he takes a stand.  Then he is “confrontational”, “rude” and “a dick”.
Damned if you do…damned if you don’t.
Lost in the criticism of the President’s “tone” is the fact that the President offered nothing in the way of specifics as to how to resolve the impasse.  We know that he wants to offset spending cuts with tax increases on the wealthy.  On that he was very clear.  We just don’t know how he proposes to get there.
Yesterday, we wrote in this space about our hope to hear some specifics from the President.  We hoped to see the President demonstrate leadership and offer a path to recovery.  He chose not to go that route.  Instead he made the political decision to publically chastise his opponents.  He chose tone over substance.  No matter how substantive his remarks might have been; once he chastised Congress on their work ethic the story was written.
The August 2nd deadline is fast approaching.  In fact it is already here.  It’s not like the parties can come to an agreement on August 1st and fast track the measure through both houses of Congress onto the President’s desk.  This needs to get done now. 
Speaker Boehner has asserted that the deadline is “an arbitrary date that can be moved.”  The Treasury Department and every financial analyst strongly disagree.  Wall Street is getting nervous.  One thing is certain.  Investors are not going to wait until the eleventh hour to abandon a sinking ship.       
The President and Congress are playing a game of poker with house money…our money.  They are gambling that political rhetoric and showmanship will sway public opinion to their side.  It is a very dangerous game.
The President made a political calculation yesterday choosing confrontation over conciliation.  Time will tell if his strategy worked. 


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