President Obama last night appealed to supporters to make their voices heard, to pressure Congress to raise the debt ceiling.
The demand he emphasized most: that any deal extend the administration enough credit to get past the next election.
Odd priority, no? You might have expected that this liberal Democratic president’s red line would be the protection of unemployment coverage or some other social program. Perhaps that’s what he says on the room. But in his speech, social spending is fully on the table to be negotiated away. He’s willing to accept, he said, the tightest restrictions on federal discretionary spending since the Eisenhower administration.
But what he must have – his red line – is more political space, a postponement of this debate to 2013.
Republicans have behaved dangerously and recklessly through this crisis. It was the Republicans indeed who forced the crisis. No excuses for them. Yet one of the motivators of Republican bad behavior has been the assumption that they faced a weak president who could easily be squeezed for concessions. Through this crisis, President Obama has acted in ways to reinforce that Republican assumption. Last night, we saw a stronger Obama. But strong for whom? His red lines are not his supporters’ red lines.