Thursday, July 14, 2011

Setting Up Eric Cantor

The budget/debt ceiling talks are getting testy, according to Sam Stein at Huffington Post.

Lawmakers and the White House had what nearly every party is describing as a “tough” and “testy” meeting on the debt ceiling Wednesday afternoon, culminating in a stormy exchange between President Barack Obama and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

It was the fifth straight day of talks, but the first in which attendees, speaking on background, were willing to admit that steps were taken backwards. According to multiple sources, disagreements surfaced early, in the middle and at the end of the nearly two-hour talks. At issue was Cantor’s repeated push to do a short-term resolution and Obama’s insistence that he would not accept one.

“Eric, don’t call my bluff. I’m going to the American people on this,” the president said, according to both Cantor and another attendee. “This process is confirming what the American people think is the worst about Washington: that everyone is more interested in posturing, political positioning, and protecting their base, than in resolving real problems.”

Cantor, speaking to reporters after the meeting, said that the president “abruptly” walked off after offering his scolding.

“I know why he lost his temper. He’s frustrated. We’re all frustrated,” the Virginia Republican said.

Yeah, and who’s fault is that? Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) basically admitted that the blame for the impasse rested on the Republicans, telling the New York Times,

“Our problem is, we made a big deal about this for three months,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina.

“How many Republicans have been on TV saying, ‘I am not going to raise the debt limit,’ ” said Mr. Graham, including himself in the mix of those who did so. “We have no one to blame but ourselves.”

The talks are moving along right on schedule. Far be it from me to say I told you so, but I did.

By the way, I’m not buying Mr. Cantor’s spin that the president lost his temper and “stormed out” of the meeting. It sounds to me like he’s the one who lost it, got slapped down — and deservedly so — in front of the rest of the group, and so he’s running out to the press to try and beat the truth that he was humiliated by the President of the United States. (Steve M. calls it a “flop.”)

Notice the absence, at least visibly, of House Speaker John Boehner. He’s basically turned this whole process over to Mr. Cantor. The problem is that Mr. Cantor doesn’t seem to understand what’s involved in negotiating. He’s taken his position and isn’t offering the president any choices: just do it my way. Everyone else is at least making some kind of attempt, even if it’s the Rube Goldberg plan hacked out by Mitch McConnell. But Mr. Cantor just stands there and demands that the president gives in.

If this whole thing blows up and the government goes into default, look to the Republicans to blame Eric Cantor. He’s being set up as the fall guy, and it’s Newt Gingrich and the government shutdown all over again. And remember who won that one?