Obama marginalizing himself on debt

July 26, 2011


— Between 6 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Sunday, the nation began a constitutional course-correction. The current occupant’s vanity and naivete — a dangerous amalgam — are causing the modern presidency to buckle beneath the weight of its pretenses. And Congress is reasserting its responsibilities.

At his Friday news conference-cum-tantrum, Barack Obama imperiously summoned congressional leaders to his presence: “I’ve told” them “I want them here at 11 a.m.” By Saturday, his administration seemed to be cultivating chaos by suddenly postulating a new deadline: The debt-ceiling impasse must end before Asian markets opened Sunday evening Eastern time, lest the heavens fall.

Those markets opened; the heavens held. The faux deadline, reportedly invoked at a Saturday White House meeting by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who should resign, inevitably seeped into the media and invited overseas panic, thereby risking the nation’s currency, for brief tactical advantage.

Amid these tawdry episodes, House Speaker John Boehner signaled constitutional sanity regained: “Congress will forge a responsible path forward.” Congress. Obama has marginalized himself.

Inordinate self-regard is an occupational hazard of politics and part of the job description of the rhetorical presidency, this incessant tutor. Still, upon what meat doth this our current Caesar feed that he has grown so great that he presumes to command leaders of a coequal branch of government? He once boasted (June 3, 2008) that he could influence the oceans’ rise; he must be disabused of comparable delusions about controlling Congress.

When he was a lecturer on constitutional law, he evidently skipped the separation of powers doctrine. But, then, because this doctrine impedes the progressives’ goal of unleashing untrammeled government, they have long loathed it: Woodrow Wilson, the first president to criticize the American founding, considered the separation of powers the Constitution’s “radical defect.”

It has, however, rescued the nation from Obama’s preference for a “clean” debt-ceiling increase that would ignore the onrushing debt tsunami. There are 87 reasons for Obama’s temporary conversion of convenience to the cause of spending restraint — the 87 House Republican freshmen. Their inflexibility astonishes and scandalizes Washington because it reflects the rarity of serene fidelity to campaign promises.

Obama — a demagogue for an age of smooth surfaces; Huey Long with a better tailor — pretended Friday to wonder whether Republicans “can say yes to anything.” Well.

House Republicans said yes to “cut, cap and balance.” Senate Democrats, who have not produced a budget in more than 800 days, vowed to work all weekend debating this. But Friday they voted to table it, thereby ducking a straightforward vote on the only debt-reduction plan on paper, the only plan debated, the only plan to receive Democratic votes.

Obama’s last venture into public specificity was his February budget, which proposed accelerating the nation’s descent into debt. It was rejected by the Senate 97-0.

Although histrionically impatient with Republicans’ refusal to accept certain measures, Obama insists he will “not accept” a debt-ceiling deal that does not increase income taxes. Surely this is the meaning of his July 11 words: “I do not want, and will not accept, a deal in which ... I’m able to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income that I don’t need.”

To understand Republican distrust of him, consider, from the many examples of his paltering with the truth, his July 15 news conference, wherein he veered from the subject of the debt ceiling to say “I’ve got three trade deals ready to go” yet they are “being held up because some folks don’t want to provide Trade Adjustment Assistance to people who may be displaced as a consequence of trade.” The facts are:

TAA, which has existed since 1962, enjoys bipartisan support. The 2009 stimulus increased it, supposedly temporarily, and it did revert to pre-stimulus levels in February. Now, however, Democrats suddenly insist that TAA’s stimulus levels be made permanent.

Obama’s wee mendacity about TAA illustrates the large stakes of the debt debate, which is a proxy for an epochal argument about the nature of American governance. Obama’s money gusher has driven federal spending from under 20 percent of GDP to almost 25 percent. Democrats consider this the new normal — until it becomes the base from which they launch their next surge of statism.

This fact refutes those who loftily dismiss the debt-ceiling debate as much ado about not very much. And those who are loftily contemptuous of today’s supposedly “dysfunctional” Washington have forgotten that the branches of government are supposed to be jealous rivals.

George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Orwell 6 years, 10 months ago

Will marginalizing himself on Obama – again.

Jimo 6 years, 10 months ago

Are you sure Will wrote this? Or just someone trying to embarrass Will?

I for one had quite a chuckle. Senility in its early stages can produce a few guffaws.

Corey Williams 6 years, 10 months ago

All flash and no substance. But what do you expect from the man who hates people wearing jeans? (With apologies to Mr. Brooks) "God darnit, Mr. Will, you use your tongue prettier than a twenty dollar whore."

cato_the_elder 6 years, 10 months ago

Excellent editorial. Based on the two previous posts, the truth does indeed hurt.

jayhawxrok 6 years, 10 months ago

The article is total crap, you parrots are hilarious hypocrites.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 10 months ago

I, for one, am impressed that the R's finally worry about this issue. It wasn't on their radar during the last administration. We'll all have to take a hit to fix this mess; someday that will become more clear.

jayhawklawrence 6 years, 10 months ago

Many Americans rely on opinion writers to provide insight into the news. They do this for practical reasons because most of us are busy trying to earn a living and pay our bills. We don't get paid to sit and watch CSPAN all day long and we don't live in the beltway and spend our days discussing the political ideas and debates.

So it is disappointing when this resource utterly fails to fill a need in our daily lives.

Perhaps no column I have read by George Will does more to expose his lack of qualifications for filling the needs of everyday Americans.

We know there are faults on both sides. We know there are worthy goals on both sides. We also know that our poltical system does not work for the average American anymore and if this continues, we will enter a new era when the American people will take to the streets as they did during the Vietnam War.

Are we headed in that direction?

Scott Drummond 6 years, 10 months ago

"And those who are loftily contemptuous of today’s supposedly “dysfunctional” Washington have forgotten that the branches of government are supposed to be jealous rivals."

Indeed. And has the suddenly sober Mr. Boehner passed anything that will survive the Senate and actually reach the President's desk? Or has he been busy licking the boots of the Teabaggers and posturing to maintain his hold on his Speakership?

Where are the editorials bemoaning the damage done as a result of the Congress failure to pass legislation sufficiently in advance of the deadline to prevent damage to the country?

Scott Drummond 6 years, 10 months ago

What will the boys and girls over at the CPM be doing?

You know.....the Criminal Propaganda Media.....FOX.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years, 10 months ago

A true leader, no matter which party would grab this problem by the short hairs and fix it.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 10 months ago

The fact is government cannot be run or managed like a personal business or your personal bank account.

Sorry folks that simply cannot be. No way jose'! Republicans are lying again.

There are so so many more variables that our personal business or personal bank accounts could never deal with. How can government be run like a business when the government decides against USA citizens to engage in 2-3 expensive wars? As of now we are at war against Iraq,Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Republicans are lying again.

One perfect example: Fully 81% of the national debt was created by Republican Presidents Reagan,Bush and Bush. http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2010/0111orr.html

One republican president flat out lied to americans about Social Security: http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2010/0111orr.html

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

We could certainly be run in a more fiscally responsible way.

The way that wars would fit into that is that when deciding to engage in them, we also decide how to pay for them, and act accordingly.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 10 months ago

You posted this same drivel twice in less than an hour. Excessive copy/pasting is killing the planet.

peugeot 6 years, 10 months ago

Thank you for reminding me I am RICH.... I have a box full of checks at home.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 10 months ago

merrill, you forgot the Mope in Chief's current war in Libya.

verity 6 years, 10 months ago

"It's not a war to liberals."

Once again a totally false generalization. Not that I give a damn what you think, but I'm not going to allow these kinds of lies to stand unchallenged.

I'm a liberal and I say we need to get out of all of our wars and stop starting new ones.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 10 months ago

"merrill, you forgot the Mope in Chief's current war in Libya."

One more example of how gov't cannot be run like a personal business or a bank account..

One more example:

TABOR is Coming by Grover Norquist and Koch Bros. http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2005/0705rebne.html

Steering revenue away from a private business all of a sudden would never make sense..

james bush 6 years, 10 months ago

This is the most pompous, arrogant president in our lifetime. Mr Will has Obama figured just right.

Liberty275 6 years, 10 months ago

I wish we had Bill Clinton back. Or at least Hilary.

gudpoynt 6 years, 10 months ago

So in this article, Mr. Will is accusing the administration of "risking the nation’s currency, for brief tactical advantage"

Seriously George, who the hell do you think you are?

tbaker 6 years, 10 months ago

The debt ceiling debate is too big of a political problem to be solved without an election. It is merely a symptom of a much larger issue: Do Americans want the size and scope of government we currently borrow 40 cents on the dollar to pay for? We can all agree the deficit spending has to end; the national debt is a looming disaster. What we need an election to decide is whether or not Americans are willing to pay the kind of taxes that would be needed to stop the borrowing and finance this government we have.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

Good points.

Also, if we want to cut the size and scope of the government, how and where do we do that?

gudpoynt 6 years, 10 months ago

So... first Obama doesn't show enough take charge leadership for the Republicans, and he's mocked as lacking leadership skills.

Now, as Obama tries to put his muscle to congress to get them to stop playing chicken with the creditworthiness of the US, Mr. Will has the audacity to say that he has overstepped his bounds?

Right wing media needs to be more cohesive in their message.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago


He just can't win with some folks, no matter what he does.

gudpoynt 6 years, 10 months ago

Let's see, what else?

"[The separation of powers has] rescued the nation from Obama’s preference for a “clean” debt-ceiling increase that would ignore the onrushing debt tsunami."

Obama's attempt to pass a clean debt ceiling increase was an effort to avoid subjecting such a pivotal decision to bitterly partisan budget negotiations. After it was clear that Congress was not willing to do this.... after it was clear that Congress wanted to use the debt ceiling increase as a mechanism to push their respective fiscal agendas, Obama jumped on the bandwagon.

But then, once it was clear that the House wan't going to get everything they wanted, it was Mitch McConnell who proposed giving the president the power to raise the debt ceiling all by his lonesome, to be overridden only by a 2/3, veto-busting vote from both houses.

George Will: worthless columnist -- ever appealing to the shortest of attention spans.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

Why did Republicans repeatedly vote to increase the limit without any complaints under various Republican presidents?

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

We had high unemployment and recessions under both Bush 1 and Reagan.

gudpoynt 6 years, 10 months ago

Obama's vote against raising the limit was an impotent gesture.

There was no question as to whether or not it was going to be raised, so it was safe to take a symbolic stand, knowing that you'll be defeated.

Does that make it right? Or Noble? No, it doesn't.

Does it smack of political double talk? Yes, it does.

Is Obama just as much of a marketer of his own image as any other politician in D.C. today? Yes, he his.

Does any of this excuse the Teapublicans in the House for playing extremely risky games with our creditworthiness and the global economy. No, it doesn't.

Does any of this excuse the Teapublicans for refusing....



to come to ANY sort of compromise whatsoever on budget talks, despite the fact that the Democrats have been more than willing....

more than willing....

more than willing....

again, and again, and again, to meet the Teapublicans half way in coming up with....

what's that thing that politicians are supposed to do?.....

oh yeah, compromise?

No, it does not.

gudpoynt 6 years, 10 months ago

And what is that mandate?

Don't raise taxes for the wealthy? Somehow, I doubt that much of the Tea Party constituency would agree with that at this point.

Was the mandate to threaten to shake the fragile US economy, and cause ripple effects through every other national economy on the planet if we don't get to keep our tax breaks for the rich?

Don't think so.

The only thing the Teapublicans want the American people to think about when it comes to the elimination of tax cuts is "job killing".

Ask them. That's all they will tell you. Job killers. It will kill jobs. Jobs. Kill. Jobs. Kill. Jobs.

What they will not do, is answer exactly which jobs will be "killed".

What they will not do, is equate one supposedly "killed job" with increased interest rates on business loans.

Which will kill a job faster? Higher taxes on millionaires? Or higher interest rates on small business loans?

And wouldn't higher interest rates on the job creators kill just as many jobs as higher taxes on those same job creators?

Why aren't these comparison being made by Teapublicans?

Why don't you call your local Teapublican up and ask them?

gudpoynt 6 years, 10 months ago

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Liberty275 6 years, 10 months ago

"Go to that bastion of socialist propaganda, that anchor of the left-wing, conspiratorial "MSM", that tax-dollar leech of a news organization called NPR, and guess what?....."

Juan Williams is gone?

After what I think were several tears, they fired him for voicing an opinion. Who picked him up despite the fact he is an affirmed liberal? Fox News.

So was Juan Williams crap at NPR and Fox News? Or did he just turn into crap when he was fired and hired by a competing network?

Disclosure: I listen almost exclusively to NPR and enjoy Click and Clack, Prairie Home, and Wait Wait more than anything on commercial radio. I was disappointed with what they did to Mr Williams.

gudpoynt 6 years, 10 months ago

Juan Williams was a fine journalist under the NPR format. Not sure what he does for Fox now, but if he's a pundit, voicing his opinion, then he's no longer a journalist so it doesn't matter.

NPR fired Juan Williams not because he voiced his opinion, but because the opinion he voiced was something along the lines of: "I get nervous riding next to Arabs on planes."

Um.... you don't see anything wrong with a supposedly objective journalist, for a reputably unbiased news source, disclosing this particular personal opinion in one of the most politically charged environments on national TV?

At the very least, it was unprofessional. NPR thought that it brought into question his objectivity, and so he was released from their organization. Why? Because they have standards that require their journalists to be beyond reproach.

Fox News has no such standard. Which is why they employ Hannity, Krauthammer, Rove, O'Reilley and the like. Compared to these yahoos, Juan Williams is like Walter Cronkite. Of course they were willing to pick him up and situate him as a nice, pretty blue feather in their starkly crimson headdress.

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 10 months ago

GOP painting themselves into corner on debt.

We shall see who comes out of this alive.

I am betting on Obama, as the GOP are clearly not interested in compromise and solving the problem and only in tweaking Obama.

We will know in a week.

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 10 months ago

The GOP are engaged in a game of chicken. They will not compromise. They will not negitiate in good faith.

Their goal is to try to hurt Obama politically. This is their only goal. They are willing to risk the economy of the USA and the world in their pursuit of trying to hurt Obama politically.

Obama needs to call their bluff. He needs to veto any plan that does not conform to his negotiated position that takes into account both GOP and democrat ideas.

Mitch McConnell has already feinted to Obama's bluff. he needs to keep up the pressure on the obstinate and childish house.

Veto, veto, veto.

Liberty275 6 years, 10 months ago

"Their goal is to try to hurt Obama politically."

Their goal should be to destroy him politically. Sometimes politics isn't just about compromise, sometimes it is about preventing our country from straying too far from it's roots and into something we aren't, like socialists or theocrats.

You got to applaud those willing to fight to keep our country from adopting more of either of those stinking philosophies and lots of others.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 10 months ago

Pres Obama Let’s Rebuild economies !

Plan One : Renewable Energy http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/renewable_energy_basics/renewing-americas-economy.html

Plan Two : If all city and state governments plus the federal government would cut corporate welfare and invest this money in IMPROVED Medicare Single Payer Insurance for ALL.

The economic impact of IMPROVED Medicare Single Payer Insurance:

  1. many of us would be saving thousands of dollars annually

  2. big business and small business could operate for less

  3. all governments and school districts could cut operating expenses substantially

  4. employed blue and white collar workers would be healthier thus more productive

  5. all humans would have necessary healthcare 24/7

  6. in general OUR cost of living would decrease across the board

  7. New industry,small business and jobs would develop

Now a new type of medical insurance for all becomes a strong economic driver for all communities in the USA.

Thus our tax dollars would be invested in our local communities providing a jump start to economic growth that has been squandered as one result of corp welfare.

Plan three : Let's get on with jobs that cannot be outsourced

A. The $166.2 billion in total economic activity has a significant national impact, generating the following:

* $5.7 million full-time equivalent jobs
*$104.2 billion in household income
*$7.9 billion in local government tax revenues
*$9.1 billion in state government tax revenues
*$12.6 billion in federal income tax revenues

Our Arts & Economic Prosperity studies continue to be among the most frequently cited statistics used to demonstrate the impact of the nation’s nonprofit arts industry on the local, state, and national economy.

  1. Economic Impact : http://www.americansforthearts.org/information_services/research/services/economic_impact/default.asp

  2. Information and Services: http://www.americansforthearts.org/information_services/

  3. http://www.AmericansForTheArts.org

B. Green Collar Economy = blue and white collar employment




C. More funding for education across the board

D. Health Care is one of the fastest growing job markets. IMPROVED Medicare Single Payer Insurance would certainly provide a further boost.

Liberty275 6 years, 10 months ago

I bet it has a great recipe for goat cheese.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 10 months ago

"Pres Obama Let’s Rebuild economies !" Let us also use commas and upper case letters in an appropriate manner.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

Yes it is.

If I were merrill,. I'd request that snap stop responding to my posts, and if he doesn't, I'd request that he be removed from the forum.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 10 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 10 months ago

Every little mudshow need a geek to bring in the rubes. Since HWMNBN got disappeareded, merrill's been filling that vital role.

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years, 10 months ago

Green Collar Jobs = unemployment. Why do you hate jobs and Jewish people, Merrill?

Aiko 6 years, 10 months ago

What about his support for La Raza?

gudpoynt 6 years, 10 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

Actually, I wonder how running deficits half as large is "sustainable" also.

Deficits are the increase in the national debt each year - according to this statement, it's ok for us to be going more and more into debt every year and that's sustainable.

My definition of sustainable wouldn't fit that scenario - in my use of the word, it would mean paying all our bills each year, and not increasing the debt, but rather decreasing it.

gudpoynt 6 years, 10 months ago

No deficit is sustainable indefinitely.

But to get from a $2 Trillion dollar deficit to a $0 Trillion deficit, there's probably going to be a period of $1 Trillion dollar deficits, right?

I think the Teapublicans are trying to argue that we can go from $2 Trillion deficits to $0 Trillion dollar deficits within a matter of a year or two, simply because the gov't is too large, and all we have to do is cut spending to get there.

I think what the Liberacrats (myself included) are trying to argue is that such cuts are irresponsibly short sighted, and if you just look at their effect a few years down the road, you will see that they end up causing more of the exact same problems they are trying to solve.

Of course this very reasonable debate gets twisted into the Right accusing the Left of being elitist, socialist, welfare-state cheerleaders who just want to destroy capitalism and redistribute hard earned taxpayer dollars, and the Left accusing the Right of being loud-mouthed puppets of greedy corporate interests sitting atop the big pile of money that has been siphoned out of the middle and lower classes.

But it's really more just a question of what we can afford versus what we can't afford; what's worth paying for (as a nation of taxpayers), and what's not.

As always, it's a question of priorities. Approximately 310 Million individual sets of priorities actually.

gudpoynt 6 years, 10 months ago

see? do we really need to blame the people who don't make enough income to pay tax on it?

are these the people we need to target? Really?

They do pay taxes you know. Maybe not as much income tax as you, but the Social Security and Medicare taxes, they pay those.

If they have a job that is. If they don't have a job, then yes, I suppose they are moochers. We should blame the people who either don't make enough money to pay income taxes, or don't have jobs.

These are the culprits of our crap economy. Indeed.

gudpoynt 6 years, 10 months ago

Question: what do you call a space where something of substance used to be?

Answer: A HOLE!

jhawkinsf 6 years, 10 months ago

So now the Republicans are suggesting a six month extension, thereby ensuring that this crisis will reappear while the presidential election is in full swing. They want nothing else but to make the President look bad, look like a miserable leader. It's just a partisan political ploy full of cynicism.
So now the Democrats are suggesting raising the debt ceiling until the end of 2012, thereby passing the buck to the next administration and the next congress. They want nothing else but to insulate this president from having to take responsibility for this crisis. They want to guarantee that this president looks like a decisive leader. It's just a partisan political ploy full of cynicism.
The next time we vote, I'd like to remind everyone that the Constitution says nothing about a two party system and it says nothing about a Republican Party or a Democratic Party. Perhaps it's time to explore other political parties with different ideas.

weeslicket 6 years, 10 months ago

incredibly disorganized argument. references to ceasar, woodrow wilson, huey long, and a taylor. segue to increased revenue = raising income taxes (mr. will know's this is not correct) segue to FAA. eh?

however, love the word choice: vanity, naivete, amalgam, conference-cum-tantrum, cultivating chaos, postulating, seeped, tawdry, Inordinate self-regard, rhetorical presidency, incessant tutor. upon what meat doth, disabused, untrammeled, tsunami, serene fidelity, paltering, veered, wee (especially liked that bit), mendacity, epochal argument, gusher, loftily dismiss, loftily contemptuous of, jealous rivals. gotta respect a writer who knows how to use a thesaurus!

Gregory Newman 6 years, 10 months ago

The Republican plan is a slick way to progressively lower the wages. NAFTA/GATT sealed America's fate for destruction of the middle-class. The rich benefit from tax breaks from George Jr. and continue with Obama but new jobs are produced overseas as I speak.

Jobs will not be implemented in this nation until the wages of Asia/Mexico meet our wages somewhere in the middle with no health care and no workman's compensation and no human rights laws.

John Boehner is a liar and is a sell-out his annual salary as a congressman is $174,000 but he doubles or may even triple that every month from palm scratches of Wall Street lobbyist. So therefore when he says the American people he specifically means his colleagues in congress.

That answers for his cry "don't tax the rich" or specifically don't tax us. Senator Mitch McConnell said his job is to make sure Obama is not president in 2012. So therefore he will not work with prudence to solve this nation's issues. His whole motivation is to destroy this President. This came about because of the battle cry of Rush Limbaugh. "I want him to fell." So the Republican Party said ok we'll just say no and thats no to anything.

The Bible states that in the last days that people will believe lies rather than the truth. That statement confirms the state of United States of America.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 10 months ago

You mention NAFTA as being a contributing factor in the destruction of the middle class and blame Republicans for it. While it is true that negotiations on the NAFTA agreement were under the Bush (Sr.) administration, it was implemented during the Clinton administration. It really is just one more example of both parties being equal participants in the mess we are now in.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 10 months ago

"It really is just one more example of both parties being equal participants in the mess we are now in."

I disagree-- Dems are clearly the junior partner. But partners, nonetheless.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 10 months ago

Let's see, if the Democrats are a junior partner in the destruction of the middle class, would you also agree that the Republicans are junior partners in the destruction of the family? Whether we're talking middle class, family, economy, values, etc. Democrats and Republicans have shown that they are equal parters in all that has gone wrong with American society. As I mentioned in a post earlier in this thread, the Constitution makes no mention of a two party system. Nor does is mention these two parties. I would hope the American voter would explore other options when they next enter the voting booth. Neither party seems particularly responsive the common man/woman.

jayhawxrok 6 years, 9 months ago

George Will is an idiot, just another partisan hack who pontificates the same lame nonsense day after day.

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