Tuesday, August 02, 2011

First Step Off a Cliff

Now that it’s done, the President is calling the debt-ceiling deal “an important first step to ensuring that as a nation we live within our means,” but it looks more like falling off a political precipice.

Even as he reiterates that “we can’t balance the budget on the backs of the very people who have borne the brunt of the recession,” Barack Obama says ruefully, “Voters may have chosen divided government, but they sure didn’t choose dysfunctional government.”

Today, even divided government may sound like an advance from where we are as John Boehner crows, “When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the White House, I got 98 percent of what I wanted. I'm pretty happy.”

Yet the Speaker may be whistling in the dark as much as the President because 98 percent won’t be enough for his Tea Party zealots who, having failed to send government crashing down, will be on his heels to keep pushing it harder toward the cliff edge.

As Barack Obama tries to recoup his political equilibrium by passing off what just happened as no big deal, the truth is that his Bad Deal will be seen in contrast to FDR’s New Deal to restore the economy from the Great Depression.

In his 1932 nomination speech, Roosevelt made a promise to the American people and kept it:

“Throughout the nation men and women, forgotten in the political philosophy of the Government, look to us here for guidance and for more equitable opportunity to share in the distribution of national wealth... I pledge myself to a new deal for the American people. This is more than a political campaign. It is a call to arms.”

By comparison, Obama has been sounding an uncertain trumpet while in full retreat. As he celebrates his 50th birthday and tries to regain his momentum, the President will have to regain a sense of direction. The next step could be a big one.

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