Obama Plays Hardball with Debt Ceiling Crisis

Backstage, Obama is doing some heavy partisan maneuvering while appearing cool and non partisan in front of the American public.

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President Barack Obama may have been the picture of nonpartisan, compromising cool during his speech to the nation Monday night. Behind the scenes, however, he was all Saul Alinsky.

Alinsky, it should be remembered, is considered to have invented the tactics of community organizing and the president is known to be a devotee of his teachings.

Working feverishly, even as the president was addressing the nation, the White House has been in campaign mode for much of the week, reaching out to Wall Street to assure the financial industry that the country will not default on its obligations.

Writing Monday for Fox Business, Charlie Gasparino reported that, "In a series of phone calls, administration officials have told bankers that the administration will not allow a default to happen even if the debt cap isn't raised by the Aug. 2 date Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner says the government will run out of money to pay all its bills, including obligations to bond holders." This in stark contrast to the message carried to the nation on the Sunday talk shows by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who repeatedly intimated that default was imminent should Congress fail to raise the federal debt ceiling.

[See our collection of political cartoons on national budget and deficit.]

And it's not just Wall Street that Obama is trying to engage to pressure Congress to give him what he wants.

On Tuesday veterans' groups were "summoned to the White House," CNN reported, ostensibly "to be briefed by Obama administration officials on the impact to veterans if Congress does not pass legislation raising the debt ceiling." The real reason for the meeting, say those with knowledge of the situation, was to activate their opposition to the Republican's plan to address the debt ceiling with a package that relied heavily on spending cuts.

The veterans may have been the first but will likely not be the last pressure bloc to be called to the West Wing to be politically engaged under the guise of being briefed. What the White House is trying to do is activate groups that might be adversely impacted by the GOP's effort to cut spending, freezing and polarizing whatever proposal passes the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and branding it toxic to America's future.

It was widely reported Tuesday that the phones were ringing off the hook on Capitol Hill—but it was less widely discussed that they were also ringing at the White House. Even though it is now clear that the Aug. 2 deadline is, more than anything, an artificial creation of the Obama administration the president's supporters' efforts to ratchet up the pressure on Congress will go into overdrive. 

[See our collection of editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

The problem with this strategy is that there is pressure coming from the right as well. A number of conservative groups are matching the liberal assault on the GOP latest proposal because—instead of going too far—it doesn't go far enough. In fact House Speaker John Boehner announced late Tuesday that, once his latest proposal had been scored by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office as not cutting as much spending as previously advertised, that the GOP was pulling the bill from the House schedule in order to find more cuts.

Right now, even though the so called Boehner Plan is far from perfect, it certainly doesn't give Obama much of what he wanted at the outset. Furthermore the Boehner Plan is still, with the exception of the "Cut, Cap and Balance Plan" that has passed the House but was tabled by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, the only plan on paper. The White House has proposed nothing. Democrats in the Senate have proposed nothing—not even, for more than two years, a budget for the federal government. This is why the conservatives in the House and, to an equal degree the United States Senate, are driving the train—and look to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

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