David Brooks Blames Potential Breakdown in Negotiations on President Obama Not Talking Nicely Enough to Republicans
There are a whole lot of things I find troubling about this situation we've got going on right now over raising the debt ceiling -- the fact that the Republicans decided to take the entire United States economy hostage with their initial refusal to just pass a clean bill, or that President Obama has continually ceded to Republicans one talking point after another on everything from tax cuts and the so-called "job creators" to putting Social Security out there as something to negotiate with when it adds nothing to our budget deficit among others.
The one thing that is not a problem with what's been going on in Washington over the last few months, is President Obama being too harsh with Republicans or not talking to them nicely enough if he wants to bring them along. I wish he'd done the George W. Bush routine after they refused to give him a clean vote and gone on television day after day and hammered them for being completely irresponsible by not giving him an "up or down" vote, and explained to Americans that what they were refusing to do is pay for spending that the Congress -- whether these "tea party" a.k.a. extreme right wing Republican freshmen were a part of that or not -- had already consented to when they voted to approve the spending with these illegal invasions of countries that were not a threat to us or their giveaway to the pharmaceutical industries with Medicare Part D, not to mention Bush using the excuse of a surplus to jam through his tax cuts for the rich.
Naturally David Brooks, always eager to make excuses for the extremists in the Republican Party or pretend as though he's surprised that they have finally devoured that party when this faction has always been the one they've catered to in order to win elections, now just thinks even at this late hour that if President Obama just talked to all of them a bit more nicely, they would not act like the extremists they are that are perfectly willing to just burn the whole house down for some so-called political purity on taxes.
Brooks also ignores the fact that these astroturf "tea partiers" might be more than happy to see the United State's economy crash and burn for reasons Karoli laid out in her post here. I doubt that our president just talking a little bit nicer to them would make any difference at all if their agenda is to help anyone profit from crashing our economy, but Brooks sure would like the viewers of PBS to think so.
I'm of the opinion that quite the opposite is true, but that's what I think about most of what David Brooks -- our great American turd polisher for horrible right wing policies we should always push back against -- has to say about anything.
JIM LEHRER: Mark, tell us what's going on.
MARK SHIELDS: Jim, what you have just seen is the rupture of the summit. This had been a summit deal involving the speaker of the House, a Republican, and the Democratic president of the United States.
Nobody else had been really party -- party to it, other than Eric Cantor, the Republican House leader. But the Democratic leadership, the House and the Senate were not party to it, and nor were the Republicans in the Senate.
So, what it came down to, we're now at a he said/he said breakup. And the time is now short. I mean, the grand deal appears to be in shambles. And now the urgency is to raise the debt-ceiling and get it done.
JIM LEHRER: What do you think happened?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, shambles, a complete meltdown, apparently. I have never seen a presidential press conference with a president so angry in public.
And I -- you know, I sort of think he's maybe mostly right on the substance. He laid out -- apparently in the next few hours, they are going to be laying out the details of what the White House offer was. And there was a lot of revenue cuts. There was some -- or spending cuts -- there was some entitlement cuts. There was some revenue increases.
So if those are real, then I think it was a pretty good deal. But the president's tone of being the only adult in Washington, everyone else is a child, that he's going to summon people to the White House as if they are kindergartners, well, even if you agree with them on the substance, it's kind of hard to go along with someone who is insulting you all the time.
And so I think the president took a big risk. Maybe we will see his tone, as he is giving it to them, he's angry, he's treating them like children, but a lot of people will take a look at it and say, a little -- there's some arrogance and self-superiority there.
JIM LEHRER: Well, it's 6:36 as we're speaking, Eastern time, and the president's still speaking at -- in the White House Briefing Room, still raising hell with the Republicans.
DAVID BROOKS: Right.
JIM LEHRER: We don't know -- but he says, Mark, that he's going to -- he has called the bipartisan congressional leadership to the White House tomorrow, Saturday, for a meeting.
But if Boehner says he's not negotiating, what's going on? That's what I am trying to get what -- we don't know.
MARK SHIELDS: Well, John Boehner said he himself was going to now negotiate with the leaders of the Senate and to try and come up with something. That was in his statement.
So -- but the president did say not to come for a meeting. He said be at the White House tomorrow morning at 11:00 and come up with a suggestion -- a solution, that it's up to you. Now, to the best of my knowledge, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi have not been -- Steny Hoyer -- have not been a party to this.
And it's -- so, you know, I don't know how they are supposed to come up with a solution between now and 11:00 tomorrow morning. But that was the president's ultimatum.
JIM LEHRER: Yes.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
MARK SHIELDS: And I do think, Jim, that it probably raises the ante and makes greater the likelihood that the Mitch McConnell-Harry Reid compromise has new legs and new life.
JIM LEHRER: For the record, the president just left the White House Briefing Room...
MARK SHIELDS: OK.
JIM LEHRER: ... having -- but the Gang of Six now, everybody was very optimistic about that. We had two of the members on last night. And they said, hey, we're -- that's -- we're the only guys in play here. We're the only people who have a plan on the table.
It looked like that was going to be -- that was -- there was going to be peace in our time. Do you know what happened with that?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think it -- we -- the Gang of Six plan was vague enough, but it had an outline of what -- essentially where they were going.
JIM LEHRER: Yes.
DAVID BROOKS: If the president's right, then his -- his offer was to the right of where the Gang of Six was. And if the House Republicans rejected that, then the Gang of Six would surely not be acceptable, because the gang of six included a lot more revenue than what the president says he's offered.
Now, we're not sure of what the president really offered because we don't know the details. But he's -- if they rejected what Obama was offering, believe me, the Gang of Six wasn't going to be acceptable for House Republicans.
JIM LEHRER: Boehner said in his written statement was that, "It's all about taxes. The president is emphatic that taxes have to be raised. As a former small businessman, I know tax increases destroy jobs."
And that's what he hung it on. And that's been the issue from the very beginning, has it not?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, it has certainly been the issue with Republicans.
JIM LEHRER: That's what I meant.
MARK SHIELDS: That's right.
And John Boehner, according to all reports and reporting, was more open to considering revenue being raised by closing down tax expenditures and tax loopholes.
JIM LEHRER: Not raising tax rates or anything, but raising revenue, yes.
MARK SHIELDS: Rates, that's right. That's right.
JIM LEHRER: Yes.
MARK SHIELDS: Yes, that's verboten for Republicans. You can't raise the rate.
JIM LEHRER: Yes.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
MARK SHIELDS: And for some, you can't even raise revenues. But John -- John Boehner was in active discussions with that.
So we will -- we will now find out, you know, how it broke up, why this marriage can't be saved, you know, what -- you know, who walked out on whom.
DAVID BROOKS: If I could just...
JIM LEHRER: Yes.
DAVID BROOKS: ... where we're headed...
JIM LEHRER: Yes.
DAVID BROOKS: Because I don't think -- if the president says come here tomorrow and submit to me your plan, that's not going to happen. They're not going to be willing to be treated like that.
So, nothing is going to happen tomorrow. And so maybe we will get to the McConnell-Reid. I -- a lot of House Republicans signed a letter saying, we will not support that.
JIM LEHRER: Explain what the McConnell-Reid idea is.
DAVID BROOKS: The McConnell-Reid is too complicated to explain and understand.
JIM LEHRER: OK.
DAVID BROOKS: But, essentially, it is a very complicated set of procedures which allow Republicans to raise the debt without ever actually voting for it, and it gives the Democrats a lot of uncomfortable votes.
JIM LEHRER: And the president essentially has the power to do it.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. It's a -- and it hands a lot of authority over to the White House. So, it's a very cynical series of gestures which does nothing but kick the can down the road.
Then the second offer and the more likely solution to all this is some sort of minimal, just, OK, we will take what we can get. And there are sort of $500 million over 10 years of cuts sitting on the table. And that would be the default position which we may fall back to.
The problem with that is the rating agencies have said -- or at least one of them has said, that's not enough. If you don't really cut $4 trillion, then we're going to -- we're going to downgrade your debt and interest costs will then rise for a lot of us. And so that is the most likely political solution. It may be a disastrous financial solution.
JIM LEHRER: Is there -- is there a stench of this kind of political gamesmanship here, rather than hard-held philosophy and ideological and policy differences?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think, Jim, it's been a mud fight right from the beginning. It's been an unappealing, unappetizing spectacle.
The president had an edge over the Republicans in measures of public opinion as casting himself as the grownup and caring more about compromise and more willing to compromise. But neither side was really being elevated to Mount Rushmore status throughout this whole process.
It's been -- I think it's hemorrhaging confidence in Washington, in the federal government, in our ability to act maturely and responsibly together. So I -- I think it's been a loss all the way around.
And now we're down to the point of, you know, look, we're staring right down the barrel of Aug. 2.
JIM LEHRER: Is it conceivable that they will not make a deal, or they will make it in such a way that the government of the United States of America will actually go into default?
DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I had been going in thinking there was a 10 or 20 percent chance of that. Now I would move that up to 30 or so.
I still wouldn't say it's likely, but I think it's entirely -- entirely likely. The atmosphere now, which we saw today, is so poisonous. I think the Republicans have been way too rigid on substantive grounds. But if you're going to have a negotiation, there has to be a set of demeanors. You have to get people to want to help you.
And if you insult them continually, well, it makes it hard even if you have the substance on your side. And I think the president did nobody any favors with his press conference. I would have -- I wish they had said: You're hot right now. Have a press conference tomorrow.