August 2, 2011
Well, the debt crisis is over. I do not know what this means as I never believed that there was a crisis. But since politicians always spin a positive out of a crisis, most Americans initially felt terrific with the crisis ending. Of course, within a couple of hours many columnists wondered who won, and then decided who won. We turned the “crisis” into a sporting event. For many Americans, it was more important to see if their side had won, rather than to think about how the political settlement affected their lives.
I think that a good settlement is one where no one gets everything they wanted. So here is my opinion on who won the “crisis”.
President Obama: More and more people are finally finding out that he is a conciliator, not a leader. He is good at standing back when the Democrats are not getting their way, thus making it look like others are failing, and also good at taking the credit when it appeared as though there was a settlement that favored the Democrats. Usually, when he takes a position, he frames it so that it appears the position is for the good of the country, but this time, by attempting to look like he was leading, he boxed himself into a corner such that he had to produce by the drop dead date of August 2, and so he settled for the scraps that the Democratic congressional leaders were fed by the Republicans. He also made it appear that all of his actions were centered on is 2012 election by insisting that the debt ceiling be adjusted so that it was not a problem until after the election. His move of calling the leaders to the White House for several meetings was based on his personal belief that he can talk anyone into anything. But he lost it when he told Eric Cantor not to call his bluff. Cantor correctly realized that the statement, to have credibility, means that there is a bluff to be called. Cantor and the Tea Party called it.
John Boehner: Within his party he looked as though he pulled enough votes together to get the deal done. He did the deal with no increase in taxes, and most of what the Republicans wanted. He did not impress all of the Tea Party folk though. But an analysis of the bargain looked to many commentators, and to many Democrats, that he had the better part of the deal. But he will lose in popularity as will the Republicans. While his backroom work was commendable, his front room work was terrible. He is not a likable speaker. He does not understand practically [but he probably does intellectually] that Obama will bounce back from his low popularity because people like him, because the issues are too complex for the average voter, and because Obama is a passable speaker. Boehner is not likeable, does not look sincere as he talks about the issues, is not passionate, and is a boring speaker. He is a leader within his party, but not a leader of the Republicans. He should have had, and still needs to have, someone who has the talent to speak with the likability of Obama so that he could have turned that speaker loose on the public.
Mitch McConnell: He looked like a sleazy backroom senate lifer who cannot be trusted. The worst job in the world would belong to the staffer who is given the job of making this guy look both intelligent and trustworthy. He did a good job of backroom work as a minority leader. I doubt that in the long run he will lose popularity as he was true to his sleazy self, and voters know that he is what he is.
The Tea Party: The party is not really organized, but the specter of small government, no new taxes, a balanced budget, and the appearance of the guts to confront the powers in Washington make them formidable. They kept Boehner from caving into the Democrats. They are a force to be respected which is what the Republican sub-leadership did.
Harry Reid: I personally do not like this kind of insincere manipulator, but you have to give him credit for making his speeches with a straight face. He was able to present a near McConnell plan and call it a new plan with reductions to the deficit based on a side plan to use money from the termination of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which he assumes will happen, at least for purposes of his plan. Just like McConnell, he will not lose from this adventure as his popularity in Nevada since 2007 has been low. Note – he wins reelection because he has the money and power to get voters who do not favor him to vote for him anyway.
Nancy Pelosi: She did a terrific job of staying on the sidelines, making no substantive statements, keeping out of the news, and generally disappearing until it appeared that the settlement would pass the House of Representatives. Then she took a position that was against the settlement because she did not “like” it, but for the settlement “for the good of the country”. This was an excellent job of doublespeak, and one that will increase her popularity. For someone with a limited intelligence and no real interest in the details of an agreement, she has excellent political sense.
Presidential candidates: With the exception of Michele Bachmann, the candidates did a good job of keeping their mouths shut, until the debate was over. The Republicans could have gained if they had unleashed Bachmann and Eric Cantor as both sell well in front of the media.
The deal itself: A subject for another time.