Jonathan Chait

Think Of The Children, President Obama

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I was not especially impressed with the reasoning in David Brooks's column yesterday. But I left plenty of meat on the bones for Matt Steinglass, whose take is worth a read even with my noticing it a day later:

On Mr Brooks' telling, Mr Obama scolded Congressional leaders like a bunch of teenagers. They responded by beginning negotiations with each other which, he thinks, are more likely to produce a deal. He scolded them, and they started doing their jobs. This "unintended consequence" of Mr Obama's actions proves that his scolding was a grave mistake. ...

The driving factors in the debt-ceiling negotiations are fanatical Republican opposition to tax increases and the determination by tea-party Republicans to defeat Barack Obama, with whom no deal can ever be done. These are the reasons why we're having a clash over raising the debt ceiling, and they're the reasons why an agreement remains out of reach. But it's worth noting that Mr Brooks's "Saved by the Bell" theory of the negotiations, in which Mr Obama's scolding tone is the problem because it's driving congressional leaders to negotiate seriously with each other, doesn't even make any sense on its own terms.

Another way to put this is that the new prevailing theory among conservatives who want a debt ceiling deal holds that Obama has screwed everything up by posing as the only adult and treating Republicans like children. His leaving the negotiations, and allowing Congress to convene the deal, will allow the deal to get made.

Which is to say, Republicans are willing to risk massive financial chaos because they're annoyed at the president's tone. In other words, they're like children.

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