Jonathan Chait

House GOP: Obama Engineered The Crisis

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A House Republican offers this GOP spin, per Mike Allen:

“President Obama blew up any chance of a bigger agreement with his insistence on tax hikes and by backing away from some of the serious structural entitlement reforms he agreed to rhetorically. He has only himself to blame. The President desperately wants a large debt limit increase that will take him past the next presidential election. Republicans will not give him a $2.4 trillion blank check he can use throughout his re-election campaign to continue the spending binge that has driven our nation to the brink of a job-destroying downgrade and default.

“He is trying to set up a no-win situation for taxpayers: either he gets his $2.4 trillion blank check, or America defaults. Republicans will put forward a responsible, common-sense proposal that reflects the principles of Cut, Cap and Balance and which can pass both chambers. As the deadline approaches it would be inexcusable and indefensible for the President to veto a plan that preserves the full faith and credit of the United States simply because it's inconvenient to his re-election campaign.”

Even by the standard of political spin, this is really pretty amazing. Consider some of the Alice-in-Wonderland assertions here. Obama acceded to large cuts in discretionary and entitlement spending in return for much smaller tax hikes that are scheduled to occur anyway. The Republican aide presents this as Obama blowing up the deal. Obama blew up the deal, by insisting on giving 80% instead of 100%.

Next we have the claim that the debt ceiling increase is a "blank check." Oh, really? You mean, once the debt ceiling is higher, Obama can spend as much money he wants on anything at all? No, I'm pretty sure Congress has to appropriate the money.

And then, piggybacking on this bizarre counterfactual assertion, the ultimate Orwellism: "He is trying to set up a no-win situation for taxpayers: either he gets his $2.4 trillion blank check, or America defaults." First he's defined a debt ceiling hike as a "blank check." Now it's Obama who's setting up a devil's choice of a blank check or default. But the choice between raising the debt ceiling and defaulting is literally the definitional nature of the debt ceiling. That's not Obama's choice. Indeed, nobody in politics ever considered it a choice at all until the House Republicans viewed it as an opportunity to take the economy hostage.

I suspect the House republican believes very little of this spin. It is a measure of how far the GOP has to go in order to present itself as the innocent party in a hostage crisis it initiated and has deepened by refusing to accept as payment anything short of the total ratification of its governing agenda.

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