Obama Bends to Blackmail
A six-shooter lies gleaming on the table. There are five bullets in its chambers. You spin the cylinder and hold the gun to America's head.
"Stop, don't pull the trigger!" says Barack Obama. "We can't risk America's future."
"Aww, go ahead and shoot," say the Republicans. "Maybe it will reduce the size of government ... permanently."
And that was the debt ceiling debate. President Obama was not willing to risk a default that might ruin the American economy and topple the world's financial system.
The Republicans, or more specifically the tea party Republicans in the House, simply did not care. Some said that they wanted default. It would be healthy. America could sell off its national parks and the gold reserves in Fort Knox. I kid you not. You didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
Or we could simply not pay the military. Now there was an idea! There are 1,137,568 members of the military currently stationed in the United States. They have rifles, tanks, artillery, jets and missiles. And we're not going to pay them? I don't think so.
In the end, the Republicans got what they wanted.
America will get massive spending cuts borne by the poor, the sick, the elderly and the middle class. But there will be not a penny in tax increases on billionaires or the closing of tax loopholes that helps multimillionaires become billionaires.
And jobs? There is not a penny for jobs. Were you so angry at the lack of jobs in America that you voted for tea party Republicans in 2010? Congratulations. You just got your reward: the back of their hand.
Think I exaggerate? Take a look at who was happy on Tuesday and who was angry.
"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," Republican House Speaker John Boehner told CBS News.
"They have acted like terrorists," Vice President Joe Biden said of the tea party Republicans. (The quotation was reported by Politico based on sources; Biden has denied saying it.)
The White House is not supposed to negotiate with terrorists, but in this case what choice did it have?
If it expected to be rewarded for doing what it had to do, it was mistaken. The opinion pages of The New York Times have done everything except take out a contract on Obama.
Columnist Ross Douthat says that "we're living through yet another failed presidency."
Columnist Paul Krugman says: "Republicans will surely be emboldened by the way Mr.
A New York Times editorial calls it "a nearly complete capitulation to the hostage-taking demands of Republican extremists. It will hurt programs for the middle class and poor, and hinder an economic recovery."
Columnist Thomas Friedman says that if we cannot get a deal "that requires cutting, taxing and investing as part of a single nation-building strategy ... then I'll hope for a third party that does get it and can take us where we need to go."
And the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party passed a resolution to explore "a possible primary challenge against President Obama."
Whew. Imagine what his enemies think of him.
But there will be no serious third party challenge in 2012. Nor will there be a serious primary challenge to Obama. (Though it would be interesting to see how well Howard Dean, Russ Feingold or even Dennis Kucinich might do.)
Even the late-night comedians are upset. "This was the same kind of compromise Custer had with Sitting Bull," David Letterman said Monday night.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday what Americans had witnessed over the last weeks "was the will of the people working itself out. It was never meant to be pretty."
It was never meant to be blackmail, either.
White House spokesman Jay Carney came much closer to the truth when he said, "This was a mess; it was a circus at times."
But a circus is supposed to be fun, and this was a draining, debilitating and shameful example of how democracy can sometimes stumble.
As President Obama said in his address to the nation on Sunday, the most important thing about the deal it that it will allow us "to end the crisis that Washington imposed on the rest of America."
And make no mistake, Washington did impose it on us. While Congress slaps itself on the back for a job well done and blows town for a lengthy vacation, it should keep in mind that to avert a crisis is not to fix a broken system. All our lawmakers have done is slap more duct tape on a structure that wheezes lamely from one calamity to the next.
In a new CNN poll, 77 percent of Americans said that the elected officials who dealt with the debt ceiling acted like spoiled children.
Spoiled children everywhere should be insulted.
To find out more about Roger Simon, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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