The Rev. Al Sharpton may have said back in the day that he won't criticize Obama (which ought to disqualify him from his newfound role at MSNBC as much as I love the man), but he was absolutely right about one thing the other night: the blind cowardice in the Democratic caucuses after passing the ACA made this debt ceiling defeat-- or one like it-- inevitable. However you feel about how the President dealt with the first threat of a government shutdown in this Congress, it came because Congressional Democrats were too scared for their seats to pass a budget. In so dodging, they not only forced a showdown over a continuing resolution, but they also lost the ability to use budget reconciliation for FY 2011, which would have made passing wprogressive deficit reduction measures a walk in the park. Raise top rates? Alright! Get rid of corporate tax loopholes? Sure! Stop subsidizing big oil and big corn? Why not? Carbon tax? OK! Plus, any method of economic stimulus that can pass the Byrd test can come along for the ride.
Instead, they went so far as to hand the decision as to whether to take the vote before the 2010 elections to extend only the middle class tax cuts to Senators facing re-election. And when they finally caved and voted to extend them all, nobody (including the President) thought to get a debt ceiling increase along with it. Even though the TPers were telegraphing their punches on pushing that envelope.
As a Spartan might have said, may they live forever.
What I find positively amazing is that while President Obama has taken quite a bit of flak for his capitulations, there is little mention that the untenable positions he's found himself in have been handed to him directly from blue dogs who didn't do their jobs as legislators and the People who voted in candidates eager to use the debt ceiling as a cudgel.
Unfortunately, Beltway media narratives cannot accommodate such truths. Indeed today, the same hacks who chided Austan Goolsbie for decrying the insanity of not raising the debt ceiling (saying that it was irresponsible to speak as if not raising it were something that could plausibly happen) are now saying that Obama didn't properly communicate the risk of default early on. One thing is for certain. The DC press will run ''dog bites man'' on page one before they admit that sometimes its the so-called moderates who fuck it up for everyone.
None of this is to say that Obama has been playing his hand especially well. He should have declared that if he didn't get guaranteed revenues, he'd take one of extraordinary measures afforded him by the powers of the executive branch to raise the debt ceiling himself. But it's not like the reasons his advisors gave him for eschewing those options were invalid. Any action the administration took unilaterally would have spooked the hands holding the levers of our economy. This is especially evident given the markets' response to the evidence of government dysfunction shown in the leadup to this shitty deal. Who knows? Maybe it would have been worse.
What's clear is that as the remnants of the Blue Dog caucus wither away, we're stuck with the consequences of their failures of conscience and intestinal fortitude. I wonder what Evan Bayh would say. Maybe it would be the same as another imposter in the guise of a public servant once said on an episode of the Simpsons:
"The politics of failure have failed. We need to make them work again."