The White House’s Mistake

August 5th, 2011

William Galston:

As many critics have pointed out, this man-made crisis was entirely avoidable. The Democrats could have raised the ceiling last December. They chose not to, handing a sword to their adversaries. Senate majority leader Harry Reid wanted to force the incoming Republicans to accept some responsibility for the increase. We’ve seen how that worked out. And if President Obama genuinely believed that the Republicans would cooperate because it was the right and responsible thing to do, then naïveté was the least of his mistakes. (A moment of introspection about his own 2006 vote against increasing the debt ceiling should have sufficed to disabuse him of that notion.)

He points out, too, that in Obama’s second round of negotiations with Boehner—which, when they failed, Obama blamed on Republican intransigence—the President demanded 50 percent more tax revenue than his earlier proposal.

If Boehner had a hard time selling an $800 billion in increased tax revenues to his caucus, then there is no way he could bring a deal back to them with $1.2 trillion of higher taxes and expect their support. And the White House had to know that, yet they demanded it anyway, and raked Republicans over the coals when it inevitably failed. That’s political posturing, not selflessly attempting to avert a debt crisis and solve our deficit, as the White House is wont to portray.

This isn’t a case of one party attempting to do the right thing for the country and the other playing chicken with default. It’s a story of two parties behaving like spoiled children.