Not the president. Barack Obama is holding a huge global and domestic crisis in his hand. To use a Washington metaphor, he's dangerously close to being left "holding the bag" on the Treasury debt ceiling limit. He keeps talking sweet reason about the art of compromise to Republicans in Congress—not a language they speak. Obama played golf with the House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican who drones on about "small business" every chance he gets. Obama is not getting traction or making friends with Boehner because he does not grasp the conversation about the debt limit is not about the debt limit. It's about taking his presidency down—this week—even if it hurts the United States of America, which it will. A small price to pay for this tea-drinking crowd of 87 GOP House freshmen which turned the chamber upside down six months ago.
"This is no way to run the greatest country on earth," Obama declared in a belated speech, sounding a call to arms around the country, last night. That in itself says so much—he's right, but he's the man who's elected by the people—not John Boehner who was elected by a small-town slice of Ohio—to run the country! Everything was calculated to leave Obama in the lurch—by Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of the old Confederate capital, Richmond, Va. and at least one other mastermind. The conspiracy has succeeded flawlessly so far. They separated Obama from his own party in Congress; in his dealings with only Republicans he went way beyond Bill Clinton's "triangulation" strategy. Obama made allies feel like they were shut out of the deal-making roomwhen he offered concessions that cut at the heart of the Democratic Party's proud history on social programs dating to the New Deal.
The GOP—and I mean the George W. Bush years and the current crop of Senate Republicans, too—has a new deal for you, too. It's called the New Steal. It goes like this: we'll take all the peace and prosperity of the Clinton tax code years up until 2000 and then squander it on a couple unwinnable wars of choice—and by the way, make rich people pay less into the Treasury than they did during those golden years. They might start one of those illusory "small businesses."
The reason President Clinton was acquitted at his impeachment trial in the Senate for a fling with Monica Lewinsky was because he built bonds of loyalty, teamwork and camaraderie with Democrats in both houses of Congress. Not one of them came forward on the floor to speak against him, except pious Sen. Joe Lieberman, who suggested a censure. He was utterly alone in his opportunistic little ploy. Clinton's true friends all stood by him in the Senate—because he was their president.
Obama, a bit of a loner, needs more bosom buddies among lawmakers. In a crisis, you find out who your friends are. The one who could have steered him straight, sailing into the wind, was the late great senator, Edward M. Kennedy. When Kennedy got his Irish up and roared on the floor, he scared the forest. Obama does not scare the Republican jungle.
Let's impeach Rush Limbaugh as the master of public dis-coarse. He's the real reason we have so many angry white men in office who are plotting against the president. He's writing the back-story of this debt drama, consulting closely with House Republican leaders step by step. I believe it even if I can't see it because he did the same thing in 1994, in cahoots with Newt Gingrich, who recruited a new House Republican freshman class to take over the House. Yes, I saw Rush with my own eyes getting all the glory as class mascot at a fancy dinner at Camden Yards in Baltimore for the new Republican victors that enabled Gingrich to become speaker. The government shutdowns and showdowns against President Clinton resulted—remember? [See a slide show of Newt Gingrich's career]
Those were the days, my friends. Thought they'd never end