Did President Obama just play the Republicans like a honky tonk fiddle? According to Lawrence O’Donnell on his MSNBC show “The Last Word”, Obama is the best budget negotiating president in history. He allowed John Boehner and Eric Cantor to come up with the monumentally stupid concept of the Super Committee, made up of 3 House Republicans, 3 House Democrats, 3 Senate Republicans, 3 Senate Democrats, and co-chaired by a Republican and a Democrat. Everyone but the Republicans could see the train wreck deadlock coming: 12 committee members divided equally be political party. 2 equal and opposing teams mandated to cut the budget deficit by $1.5 trillion. Where was the tie-breaking vote? Because it was obvious there would be a 6-6 deadlock, well maybe not if pseudo Senate Democrat Max Baucus defected to the other side like he was wont to do (which in this case he didn’t). The President wasn’t allowed to sit on the committee nor Vice-President Joe Biden, as he would serve as the tie breaker in his capacity as President of the US Senate. And it could have been Cantor (Boehner was definitely not the brains of the House outfit) or Reid who came up with the poison pill section triggering a $900 billion down payment January 2013 (safely after the 2012 elections) should the committee stalemate on its November 23, 2011 deadline with an additional $1.2 trillion in budget cuts to follow that.
So, while all of us liberals were wringing our hands and cursing Obama’s name for agreeing to this budget compromise in return for the Republicans voting to lift the debt ceiling last August, we missed the secret smile on his face as he signed the bill into law saying, “Bring it” and then sat back and played the waiting game. And the committee did not disappoint him. It crashed and burned. Half of the $1.2 trillion in the budget deficit reduction would come from defense spending cuts. Republicans despise defense spending cuts as much as they despise tax increases. So, the Republicans immediately started making noises of rescinding some of the automatic cuts. Obama’s response was firm and swift: “My message to them is simple: No. There will be no easy offramps on this one.” I was surprised he was able to stifle the giggle and maintain his stoneface. Obama said he will veto all bills that would reverse the cuts. And then, he plays his hole card: he’s going to give Congress another chance to pass his American Jobs Act. This after Boehner has gone public with barely discernible grunts about possibly maybe seeing the necessity to increase tax revenues somehow. The AJA just happens to include modest tax increases on the wealthy.
So despite the attempted spin by Fox and Congressional Republicans to blame it all on Obama and the Democrats, America can plainly see that once again it was the Republicans who dragged their feet and brought the merry-go-round to a stop by refusing to raise taxes on their 2% masters. American liberals will remember through clenched teeth that Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid program cuts were on the table—but perhaps unclench them upon learning that the automatic trigger and the AJA spare those programs.
So, chalk up another victory for Obama, to stand beside the killings of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki, and the liberation of Libya from Muammar Gaddafi. But no time to take a victory lap because next month both the payroll tax cuts and extended unemployment benefits expire and opposing their extensions if the Bush tax cuts aren’t also extended will be the next line in the sand the Republicans draw. So, Obama will be returning to the poker table, and we’ll see if he still knows how to hold ‘em or if he’ll fold ‘em.