I see two bad guys here.
- First, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. After last week’s shenanigans, he made it clear that the Republican Party thought last-minute debt-ceiling brinkmanship was peachy keen:
“What we have done, [interviewer] Larry [Kudrow], also is set a new template. In the future, any president, this one or another one, when they request us to raise the debt ceiling it will not be clean anymore. This is just the first step. This, we anticipate, will take us into 2013. Whoever the new president is, is probably going to be asking us to raise the debt ceiling again. Then we will go through the process again and see what we can continue to achieve in connection with these debt ceiling requests of presidents to get our financial house in order.”
I think S&P has made it clear that the debt-ceiling game is not one to be played again.
- My Villain No. 2 is President Obama. His comments on the downgrade are at the link.
Wait – no link? That’s because as I write this (9 a.m. EDT), the president has not commented on a downgrade of U.S. debt, so far as I can tell. I’ve searched whitehouse.gov – nothing. And if he had said anything, the New York Times – as the paper of record – would have his remarks in its lede story. Nothing.
Here’s a Reuters story quoting Obama’s weekly address, recorded before the downgrade: “Both parties are going to have to work together on a larger plan to get our nation’s finances in order.” The fact that Reuters is quoting pre-downgrade remarks strongly implies that Obama has made no post-downgrade remarks.
Personally, I think he should say he’s done playing games with U.S. obligations and that the next time an increase is needed, he will only sign a bill that addresses the debt ceiling only. And he will use any and all options (invoking the 14th Amendment, minting trillion-dollar platinum coins) to forestall a default. But I thought he should have said that in the spring.
Regardless, he should say something.
That would be leadership.
The silence, oddly, reminds me of the pictures of President Bush in Air Force One, looking forlornly at New Orleans as he flew over Katrina’s devastation – the feeling that the leader believes himself helpless, can’t lead, and refuses to lead.
The 2008 election season made much of how candidates would react to an emergency at 3 a.m. And here we are – 15 hours of crickets.