If you felt a profound sense of public perception break-through from the results of the New York Times/CBS poll that came out a week ago–revealing President Obama’s approval rating had fallen to the … ‘lowest point ever recorded’ in this history of this poll,’–then the revelations from the lead Washington Post article yesterday will hit the ball out of the park for you.
The 4,600 word article, written by Peter Wallsten, Lori Montgomery and Scott Wilson, is a chronicle of the tense national debt-ceiling increase negotiations that occurred in the last part of July 2011.
These negotiations, critical to the financial efficacy of the nation, are considered by many political analysts to be the first, seminal test of Barack Obama’s central campaign theme of ushering in a new, non-partisan way of doing business in Washington–especially after Democrat’s November shellacking by the Tea Party candidates caused them to lose control of the House, and usher in a starkly divided government.
From the linked Washington Post article:
His plan backed away from earlier positions on taxes in a number of ways, including pushing the top rate below 35 percent. But there was a deal-breaker for the Republicans — a demand for additional tax increases to match proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. To keep the health-care cuts, a critical component of the deal for the GOP, Republicans would have to swallow about $400 billion more in tax hikes — a 50 percent jump from the figure that had been under discussion.
Inside the White House, the offer reflected the new political reality shaped by the Gang of Six. In light of that farther-reaching proposal, White House officials worried that the deal under discussion with Boehner would meet resistance, particularly among Obama’s Democratic supporters. Higher taxes explicitly targeted toward the wealthy offered an element of fairness, in the White House view, and a way to sweeten any deal for the Democratic base.
Obama aides said the new offer also reflected their frustration at what they described as an unrelenting effort by the GOP to cut safety-net programs. “They say: ‘You moved the goal posts. You derailed this entire thing,’ ” said a senior administration official. “But it was simply a recognition of what they were demanding.”
The official said the Republicans wanted “game changers” on Medicare and Social Security; they said they needed an “Obama scalp.”
“We said, ‘Look, guys, in a world in which the Gang of Six just came out today, if you’re doing all those things, a fair and balanced approach involves more revenue,’ ” the official said. “At the time, nobody in the room, neither us nor them, thought that anybody was moving the goal posts.”
The Republicans describe it differently. The news from the White House, they say, was a “tough blow” to Boehner, who saw the push for additional taxes as tantamount to Obama violating a “gentleman’s agreement” on the broad outlines of a plan for which the speaker was already taking heat from some in his ranks.
By Wednesday morning, as the Obama and Boehner sides gathered again in the Oval Office, the optimism of Sunday had disintegrated. Vice President Biden, a skeptic of restarting talks with Boehner after the first round collapsed, was there. There appeared to be a very different president in attendance, as well.
Excited and upbeat three days earlier, Obama now was stern and lecturing. According to notes taken by GOP aides, he opened by complaining about Boehner’s demand for $200 billion in Medicaid cuts, a persistent point of contention. Then he began to talk about taxes, saying the Gang of Six “makes things more complicated.” The White House would need more tax revenue or smaller health-care cuts.
Klein sums up the back and forth this way:
Instead, in the very simplest of terms, they all met in the White House, late on a Sunday afternoon in typical Obama-dictated “eleventh-hour fashion.” Then, without regard, President Obama pompously, and single-handedly, negated several key deal points–strictly in favor to his base–in a “take it or leave it” tone.
Consequently, after scuttling the deal, which had no presidential “sweat equity” whatsoever, Speaker Boehner left the White House.
Obama had flippantly demanded that Republicans raise tax revenue increases finally offered by Boehner, which had not even been on the table earlier, from $800 Billion to $1.2 Trillion; he reneged on no tax increases for wealthier, job creating Americans; and he back-peddled on cuts to entitlement programs–which are at the core of the deficit problem.