It's All About the Senate
President Obama has done nothing to earn his Nobel peace prize, but after yesterday's performance at the White House podium no one should begrudge him an Oscar. His performance was mean-spirited, petulant, more politically vicious than anything we ever heard from Richard Nixon -- and altogether a total crock of you-know-what.
But it served the president's purpose, which is to avoid having to make the one choice he fears most: either cutting back government entitlements, or going down in history as the American president who defaulted on our country's debt and drove the world's most productive economy over a cliff. He doesn't want to cut back entitlements because he's a left-wing socialist ideologue (Note to readers who may object to this description: I've spent my entire life studying socialism, and I know one when I see one). And if he defaults and drives our economy off the cliff, getting re-elected in 2012 will be nearly impossible, no matter who the Republicans choose to run against him.
What's put President Obama in this jam is a development none of the Washington-based genius commentators seems to have noticed: the President and his Democrats have lost control of the US Senate. Yes, the Democrats are technically the majority party, by a margin of 53-47. But it's a fragile majority, with several Democrats including Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan heading into tough re-election campaigns in which their only hope for winning lies in moving toward the right. And then there's Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who's a Democrat in name only and who may well switch parties at some point. And Connecticut's Joe Lieberman isn't even a Democrat in name any more.
This explains why the Senate hasn't passed a budget in two years: the votes just aren't there to pass any budget the president can support.
And it explains why the Senate voted last Friday to "table" the hugely-popular Cut, Cap & Balance bill passed a few days earlier by the GOP-led House. Not because the votes to pass it weren't there, but because they were. Had the Senate actually voted on the House bill, rather than vote to not vote on it, Cut, Cap & Balance would have passed because a handful of Democratic senators would have caved in to public opinion and supported the bill. And that would have left the president with a choice of either signing the bill into law -- and thus destroying his dream of turning the US into Europe-with-second-rate-paintings -- or vetoing the bill, taking us off that cliff and heading back to Chicago with Michelle and the kids after 2012.
So far, Speaker Boehner and his team have held the line while taking enemy fire. Good for them. Now it's time to go on the attack by demanding -- demanding, damn it, and not taking "no" for an answer -- that the US Senate vote on Cut, Cap & Balance. It'll pass, and when the bill lands on the president's desk he'll throw himself to the floor, bang his little fists on the carpet -- and then sign it.