It’s pretty hard to argue that President Obama and his negotiating team are not the only adults at the negotiating table. If the press doesn’t report on yesterday’s debt ceiling press conference and point that out, they will have failed us tremendously once again.
Full press conference from yesterday:
My favorite two spots came at about 18 minutes and 27 minutes (ish).
I’ve gone out of my way to say that both parties have to make compromises. I think this whole episode has indicated the degree to which at least a Democratic president has been willing to make some tough compromises. But when you guys go out there and write your stories, this is not a situation where this is somehow this was the usual food fight between Democrats and Republicans. A lot of Democrats stepped up in ways that were not advantageous politically. So we’ve shown ourselves willing to do the tough stuff on an issue that Republicans ran on.
[Raising the debt ceiling] is the easy part. We should have done that six months ago. The hard part is actually dealing with the underlying debt and deficits and doing it in a way that’s fair. That’s all the American people are looking for: some fairness.
I can’t tell ya how many letters and emails I get, including from Republican voters, who say, “Look, we know that neither party is blameless with regards to how this debt and deficit developed. There’s been a lot of blame to spread around. But we sure hope ya don’t just balance the budget on the backs of seniors. We sure hope that we’re not slashing our commitment so that kids can go to college. We sure hope that we’re not suddenly throwing a bunch of poor kids off the Medicaid roles so that they can’t get basic preventative services that keep ’em out of the emergency room.”
That’s all they’re looking for is some fairness.
Now what you’re gonna hear, I suspect, is, “Well, look, if the Senate is prepared to pass the Cap, Cut and Balance bill, the Republican plan, then somehow we can solve this problem. That’s serious deficit reduction.” It turns out, actually, that the plan that Speaker Boehner and I were talking about was comparable in terms of deficit reduction. The difference was we didn’t put all the burden on the people who are least able to protect themselves, who don’t have lobbyists in this town, who don’t have lawyers working on the tax code for ’em — working stiffs out there, ordinary folks who are struggling everyday — and they know they’re gettin’ a raw deal. And they’re mad at everybody about it. They’re mad at Democrats and they’re mad at Republicans because they know that, somehow, no matter how hard they work, they don’t seem to be able to keep up and what they’re looking for is someone who’s willing to look out for ’em. That’s all they’re looking for. And for us not to be keeping those folks in mind every single day when we’re when we’re up here, for us to be more worried about what some funder says, or what some talk radio show host says, or what some columnist says, or what pledge we signed back when we were trying to run, or worrying about having a primary fight — for us to be thinking in those terms instead of thinking about those folks, is inexcusable.
I mean, the American people are just desperate for folks who are willing to put aside politics just for a minute and try to get some stuff done. So when Nora asked or somebody else asked, “Why was I willing to go along with a deal that wasn’t optimal from my perspective?”, it was because even if I didn’t think the deal was perfect, at least it would show that this place is serious, that we’re willing to take on our responsibilities, even when it’s tough, that we’re willing to step up even when the folks who helped get us elected may disagree.
At some point, I think, if ya wanna be a leader, ya gotta lead.
UPDATE: The New York Times gets it: “The Party That Can’t Say Yes”
[O]n the eve of economic calamity, the Republicans killed an overly generous deal largely over a paltry $400 billion in deductions. Mr. Obama was willing to take considerable heat from his liberal critics over the deal, and the Republicans were not willing to do a thing to anger their Tea Party base. As the president forcefully said, there is no evidence that House Republicans are capable of making those tough decisions. If last-ditch talks beginning Saturday fail, they will have to take responsibility if the unimaginable — a government default — happens in 10 days and the checks stop going out.