If you cut through all of the political spin and media fog, here's what's happening in the so-called debt negotiations: Congressional Republicans are negotiating; Obama's campaigning. They're legislating (or at least trying to legislate); he's grandstanding. They want to cut the debt; he wants to win reelection. The result: impasse.
That Obama is not negotiating in good faith is obvious. He hasn't offered up a budget; he hasn't proposed a debt reduction plan; and he hasn't specified any real cuts save for a massive gutting of the defense budget.
Instead, Obama's taken to holding fake press conferences (they'll be another one today) where he pretends to be a leader and solemnly lectures Congress about the need for "action" and "getting it done."
Of course, Obama has been deliberately murky and coy about what, exactly, it is that he wants "done." He has, however, singled out the so-called corporate jet tax loophole as something that must be eliminated.
But as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, this "loophole" was something that Obama himself reauthorized in his 2009 "stimulus package," which garnered not one House Republican vote. It takes real chutzpa to blame your political opponents for legislation that you yourself sponsored two short years ago.
Moreover, Ryan explained, this Obama stimulus tax policy (read: accelerated depreciation) applies not only to "corporate jets," but to "lots of things," including airplanes.
More tellingly, said Ryan, this one particular issue, the so-called corporate jet tax loophole, "never came up in our debt negotiations. It never came up in [our] discussions. The first time I heard about a corporate jet [tax] loophole -- which was in his stimulus package --was when he mentioned it six times in a press conference."
Of course, it's not surprising that the first and only time Obama ever mentioned this "loophole" was in a press conference. Obama's focused on reelection, not debt reduction. He's playing for the cameras, not fiscal probity. He's trying to win politically, not govern honestly or effectively.
Indeed, as Charles Krauthammer observes in today's Washington Post, the president could not be "more political.
It's like his Afghan surge wind-down date. September 2012 has no relation to any military reality on the ground. It is designed solely to position Obama favorably going into the last weeks of his reelection campaign.
What should congressional Republicans do? "Call Obama's bluff," says Krauthammer:
The Republican House should immediately pass a short-term debt-ceiling hike of $500 billion containing $500 billion in budget cuts. That would give us about five months to work on something larger...
Will the Democratic Senate or the Democratic president refuse this offer and allow the country to default - with all the cataclysmic consequences that the Democrats have been warning about for months - because Obama insists on a deal that is 10 months and seven days longer?
That's indefensible and transparently self-serving. Dare the president to make that case. Dare him to veto -- or the Democratic Senate to block -- a short-term debt-limit increase.
In other words, stop playing footsie with the president. Demand that he make good on his rhetoric.
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