President Barack Obama’s introductory remarks at Monday’s press conference were, for the most part, in answer to rumors that the Republican-controlled House may not agree to a debt-ceiling hike without substantial spending cuts that the administration has repeatedly promised, but never delivered. They were remarkable in both their challenge to the GOP and their abject dishonesty to the American people.
“I intend to carry out the agenda that I campaigned on — an agenda for new jobs, new opportunity and new security for the middle class,” Obama began, according to. “Right now, our economy is growing, and our businesses are creating new jobs.”
The fact is businesses nationwide have announced massive layoffs since the president’s re-election, beginning in the defense industry and spreading to all areas of the economy. Most recently, both The New York Times and Time magazine announced major cutbacks, and U.S. economic freedom has plunged to 10th place in the world’s ranking under the current administration.
“And for nearly two years now, I’ve been fighting for such a [balanced] plan, one that would reduce our deficits by $4 trillion over the next decade,” Obama said.
No one seems to know what the president means by “balanced plan” anymore. When he appeared on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” in September, it meant $2.50 in spending cuts for every dollar in increased revenue. When it came to dealing with the “fiscal cliff” at year’s end, “balanced” meant both tax and spending increases.
Furthermore, $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade, even if believed, would still result in a deficit that would continue to add to our already-massive public debt.
Although Obama was technically correct in saying that “raising the debt ceiling does not authorize more spending,” historically, raising the limit, just like increasing tax revenue, has resulted in more, not less spending. Raising the debt ceiling grants Congress the authority to incur additional debt. It tells the world that the United States is incapable of paying its debts without sinking further into debt.
The president then dragged out his parade of imaginary horribles.
“We might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small business owners,” he said. “Food inspectors, air traffic controllers, specialist who track down loose nuclear materials wouldn’t get their paychecks.”
Obama finally drew a line in the sand and aimed his remarks at House Republicans.
“Republicans in Congress have two choices here. They can act responsibly, and pay America’s bills, or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis. But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy,” the president said, before adding an exclamation point: “And they better choose quickly, because time is running short.”
When the president finally took questions, he ignored Fox News’ Ed Henry, but did call on CBS News White House correspondent Major Garrett. That turned out to be a big mistake.
Garrett noted the president’s hypocrisy on the debt ceiling by contrasting his present position with the tack he took as a senator protesting a debt-ceiling increase under President Bush.
Despite several follow-up questions by Garrett, Obama talked around the issue without answering the question.
Former President Ronald Reagan worked with a Democratic Congress and actually enjoyed the give-and-take, as did then-House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill.
In contrast, although the president repeatedly said throughout the conference, “If we want to have a conversation about that, let’s have that,” the conversation never seems to come.
Obama delivered his remarks with a beneath-the-surface anger and an outward distain for Congress — one of his partners in government. If he did so to convey strength, he failed miserably. Instead, he showed us for what he is — a man who has lost all control of the political process because he refuses to participate in it.
Cutting through all the anger, whether feigned or real, and setting aside the dishonesty and arrogance, the president seemed to say that he’s calling the Republicans’ bluff when it comes to raising the debt ceiling. The problem is, I don’t think the GOP is bluffing this time — at least, I hope they’re not.
Read a transcript of the press conference at The Washington Post.
The following clip shows the exchange between Garrett and the president:
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