Disclaimer: I have not read Bob Woodward’s book and have only seen the Sawyer interviews. In these interviews Woodward essentially restates material which has already circulated here both in private conservations and by media outlets such as WJLA and WUSA9. Simply, there was a breakdown and lack of communication on both sides. Woodward cites Clinton and Reagan on past impasses and acknowledges “they by and large worked their will; on this President Obama did not.” I agree with Woodward, but given the urgency of the situation with the debt ceiling and that the issue was money previously owed by the United States, not future expenditures, would increasing revenue by removing the Bush era tax cuts for individuals with annual incomes in excess of $250,000 be a deal breaker in a rationale world?
Again, this was to pay off debt incurred by past Congresses, and the elimination of the tax cuts for those incomes in excess of $250,000 could be reinstated by Congress in the future. Obama and Boehner came close to reaching an agreement on cuts and taxes. Certain cuts, however, were in areas where Congress on both sides of the aisle had personal financial stakes either from investments or campaign contributors. Boehner also had the misfortune of Cantor positioning himself for a potential “coup.” I’m not implying illegal by that term, only the possibility of the Majority leader wanting to have more influence than the Speaker.
Obama made a mistake of discussing some of the negotiations publically which Ryan felt was a personal attack. Adding to that feeling of disrespect for Ryan was that Obama used the name “Jack Ryan” instead of “Paul Ryan.” Boehner then faced criticism and had an either we or they decision. At the same point, Obama began addressing the eliminations of other tax cuts to offset some of the cuts to Defense. At that stage, no messages to the White House were returned. Constituent anger finally got to the point where Congress felt some pressure, and debt ceiling increase which had occurred without much if any controversy many times in previous administrations received passage. Obama was angry because after all the efforts by he and Boehner, all of the camera time and comments by Senate and House Members on both Republican and Democratic sides, the ultimate outcome was the same as it had been previously when the debt ceiling was raised in prior administrations by prior Congresses.
I agree that Obama did not work “his will” or tear down a “brick wall” if you rather use that analogy. Although I wonder if he had, would those actions have been deemed an abuse of Executive power? According to Eric Cantor (the House Majority Leader), Ryan stated that a “grand bargain” on the debt ceiling negotiations were no longer possible because Ryan believed that would “guarantee the president’s reelection.” Woodward, however, deflects Cantor’s blame of Ryan to Cantor and his Tea Party caucus.
My gut feeling is that any individual in either the White House or in Congress who attempts to take a middle stance approach faces extreme opposition. Some Republicans have moved so far to the right that they label Obama a socialist. On the other side of the aisle, some Democrats oppose Obama for not being far enough to the left. Obama is not a socialist by either the historic definition or pop culture definitions in his proposals and actions. Likewise, I would not label Romney as either a Fascist or NAZI by either the historic definitions or pop culture definitions of today.
The same issues remain:
1) Who does Congress represent, their constituents or their financial contributors?
2) Can everyone in Washington not have emotional tantrums at the same time and at least try to play together?
3) Why doesn’t Congress remain in session to actually try to bring some bills to the floor for debate and vote instead of enjoying another recess to concentrate on their own reelections? The President can sign or veto a bill from anywhere, but that bill has to pass through a sitting Congress.
4) Given the crisis that both sides emphasize in all the campaign advertisements (one perk or smirk being in DC is that since VA is a battleground advertisements are 24/7), wouldn’t it be wise to actually work on solving the problems and not just putting them off till later?
The price of politics has become too high for the majority of Americans to enjoy as they sit down with their Constitutional rights.