Political Animal


July 14, 2011 8:00 AM Going backwards with 19 days to go

By Steve Benen

As scheduled, participants in the debt-reduction talks met for about two hours yesterday. It’s safe to say the discussions didn’t go well.

Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, said he raised the idea of taking what savings could be achieved now — roughly $1.4 trillion — and then having additional votes to raise the debt limit again before the elections in November 2012, with Republicans ultimately seeking a total of at least $2.4 trillion in cuts with no tax increases.

At this, Mr. Cantor said, the president “got very agitated, seemingly.” Mr. Cantor quoted the president as saying: “Eric, don’t call my bluff. I’m going to the American people with this.”

Then, Mr. Cantor said, “He shoved back and said, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow’ and walked out.”

“I was a little taken aback,” Mr. Cantor added.

Democrats said that Mr. Obama’s departure was not abrupt, but that he had forcefully made a case that Republicans had been unwilling to compromise. “Enough’s enough,” one Democrat familiar with the talks quoted Mr. Obama as saying.

It’s not surprising that accounts from participants vary, but piecing together the various accounts, it appears President Obama was wrapping up the meeting for the afternoon. Cantor interrupted him three times to push for a temporary increase — an idea Cantor himself had previously rejected — in which Republicans would get significant cuts in exchange for nothing.

Obama reportedly found this hard to take. “I have reached the point where I say enough,” Obama said, according to Reuters. “Would Ronald Reagan be sitting here? I’ve reached my limit. This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this.”

Ordinarily, powerful officials involved in these kinds of high-level talks stick to vague generalities when talking to reporters afterwards. In contrast, Cantor rushed to reporters yesterday to whine that President Obama had hurt his feelings — a pathetic display that reminded many of Newt Gingrich’s back-of-the-plane tantrum in 1995.

Cantor isn’t just being a pain is the ass in the room; he’s also undermining the process itself by pouting for the cameras.

And remember, if Cantor isn’t satisfied, he’ll lead the way in crashing the economy on purpose.

Sam Stein’s report added, “It was the fifth straight day of talks, but the first in which attendees, speaking on background, were willing to admit that steps were taken backwards.”

Indeed, theatrics aside, the substantive gaps between the parties appear to be turning into chasms. They disagree on cuts, the baseline used to determine the size of the cuts, the timeframe for the cuts, the need for revenue, the role of defense spending in the cuts, and mechanisms to enforce the savings. Is any progress being made on any of these fronts? By all accounts, no.

The other day I compared today’s Republican Party to a not-terribly-bright organized-crime family, run entirely by petulant children. In retrospect, that was probably insulting to children.

The president has set a Friday deadline to determine, once and for all, whether an agreement is possible. If not, attention will turn to contingency plans, most notably Mitch McConnell’s proposal.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • mr. irony on July 14, 2011 8:01 AM:

    GOP 2011: Obama = angry black man

  • RD Padouk on July 14, 2011 8:02 AM:

    I think you meant to say "an idea Obama has repeatedly rejected."

  • c u n d gulag on July 14, 2011 8:07 AM:

    Here was another quote from Cantor.

    Cantor Codetalkin':
    "He shoved back* and said 'I'll see you tomorrow'** and walked out,"*** House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told reporters in the Capitol after the meeting.

    *Read: Pushy f*ckin' n*gger.
    **Read: Lazy f*ckin' n*gger.
    ***Read: Irresponsible f*ckin' n*gger.

    And mind you, that was only in a PARTIAL sentence!

    Also, too, when you're in a play or stand-up comedy routine that's bombing, it's called "FLOP sweat!"

    And that's what Cantor's showing - FLOP SWEAT!

  • karen marie on July 14, 2011 8:15 AM:

    The Republican version -- that "the president walked out" -- is what NPR is going with this morning. No mention that this is the first time one of the political parties has refused to vote a clean bill on the debt limit. From the sound bites provided, I would have the false impression that the consequences of default are being overblown by Democrats.

    If it weren't for the reality of economic turmoil for millions of Americans and the loss of a massive number of additional jobs, I'd say let Republicans force a default.

    But perhaps that's what's needed for this country to finally wake up to the fact that one of the two parties is bat-shit insane.

  • bigtuna on July 14, 2011 8:15 AM:

    NPR story this am referred to the "hell no" caucus - the group I call the Yahoos. THey said about half of the republicans are now in the camp of no on debt limit changes if there are any tax increase. So for those of us counting votes, that means that these people, who think Obama is lying about the consequences, that wal street is lying about what happens in a default, that do not believe that anything bad will happen, total about 120 elected house members.

    So these idiots have walked away from democrats being ok with 2T in cuts; the sad thing, from their pathetic perspective, is that they could have gotten to LOWER marginal tax rates [a Chicago-Stanford school of econ wet dream] AND deficit reduction, if they had been willing to ... what is that word - oh! think.

    120 people in the house who put their narrow, rand / teavangilistic world view ahead of logic, and who lack an honset appraisal of how markets and the economy work ....

    So wall street - how's the new republican party doin' fer ya?

    ps: just got a car loan yesterday. Thinking of telling the bank that after the 2nd, it is an existential payment ....

    RFG inficar

  • c u n d gulag on July 14, 2011 8:16 AM:

    Oh, I forgot to tell everyone that today, I'm calling my Republican Congresswoman (my two Senators are Dems) - AGAIN!

    But this time, with a "Debt Threat!"

    I'm going to be very careful in how enunciate that.

    But, if you don't hear from me for, oh, say, 10-20, you'll know I screwed that up somehow.

  • Edgewater Joe on July 14, 2011 8:17 AM:

    Has one political party's entire leadership been collectively exposed as being THIS incompetent, THIS ignorant, and THIS owned by one man (Obama) as the Three Republican Stooges in such a short period of time? Even once this episode is behind everyone, how do they possibly continue to work between now and the election?

    It's a political carnival and a legislative quagmire.

  • j on July 14, 2011 8:17 AM:

    Could a grown up please bar Cantor from the meetings in future? Who elected this man as negotiator in chief anyway?
    The only person who has an investment that will give him high returns if the country fails.

  • TR on July 14, 2011 8:22 AM:

    If the GOP is a crime family, dim Cantor has to be Fredo.

  • FRP on July 14, 2011 8:26 AM:

    If we didn't have entertaining outlets like this for the Republican in every little boy and girl , why we would have to work for a living .
    I can see the happy ending with Col Johannes Wayne wearing a little ribbon given to him by Maureen Sullivan . Horses pounding grass , mud and cigarette butts left by the crew . Johannes rising against the horizon sword swinging and killing the filthy shoshalists ...
    ... "Eric ! Eric" "Wake up Eric !" "There is a mob outside , and they have soap !"

  • j on July 14, 2011 8:28 AM:

    @ c u n d gulag
    Good luck with the phone call!
    Keep us updated!

  • berttheclock on July 14, 2011 8:29 AM:

    @cundgulag, chill - Saratoga will open next week - All could be well.

    However,so good to see politiocs trying to act like Statesmen and, not, simply, trying to improve their positions, such as Cantor wanting Boehner's job and Mitch wanting to become Majority Leader of the Senate. Cantor craves the Speaker's role and, truly, believes he is Commander of Cantor's Legion, CSA.

  • berttheclock on July 14, 2011 8:31 AM:

    @TR, if so, could anyone, please, send him brochures about the wonders of fishing at Lake Tahoe?

  • Anonymous on July 14, 2011 8:34 AM:

    Every person in that room is a multimillionaire.
    They do not give a fuck about what they do to the middle class. To them it is a game. They may notice when Wall Street starts screaming.
    These people are Idiots.
    To his credit Chris Matthews took apart Steve King who is a part of the triumvirate of stupid : King, Bachmann, and Gohmert , not giving him an inch and pressing him on where he gets his facts


    Multimillionaires don't feel the pain and they may notice the rest of us when we start dropping dead in the street from starvation or show up outside their door with pitchforks and torches.
    Other than that , it really doesn't affect them. As a matter of fact I bet they have their short sales all lined up so they can profit when the economy crashes

  • DAY on July 14, 2011 8:41 AM:

    Crime family? Perhaps.

    But I was watching bits of Olivier's Richard III on TCM yesterday, and I was struck by how much the current machinations in DC resemble one of Shakespeare's plays.
    "Othello" springs to mind. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Othello#Plot)

    -the players almost cast themselves!

  • victory on July 14, 2011 8:43 AM:

    Anyone remember this?


    Steve, maybe you should remind your readers just who we are really dealing with here in Cantor?

  • Bob M on July 14, 2011 8:49 AM:

    I'm missing something: Why is Cantor the point man now? Did he push Boehner out or are they playing Good Cop/Bad Cop?

  • berttheclock on July 14, 2011 8:51 AM:

    "Richard III"

    Or, from a different perspective, how a title was stolen by Henry VII for his crime family, otherwise, known as The Tudors. Amazing how the victor gets to control the writing and spin of history.

  • RD Paoduk on July 14, 2011 8:51 AM:

    Or maybe not. I didn't realize Cantor had previously advocated this.

  • Basilisc on July 14, 2011 8:52 AM:

    It's also an insult to organized crime families. At least they make credible threats.

  • Perspecticus on July 14, 2011 8:54 AM:

    Screw McTurtle's "plan". My preference is for Obama to invoke the 14th amendment by Monday and let the GOP argue to the Roberts Court that they have no obligation to extend the debt limit and pay our bills. I believe even this Supreme Court would have no choice but to side with the administration.

    I am also thinking it was fate, kismet, cosmic convergence, whatever, that brought Gingrich back into national politics at the same time as the GOP is self-destructing, again.

  • Marko on July 14, 2011 8:54 AM:

    @Bob M: Cantor is the House Majority Leader, second in command. Obama is reaching out to the leaders of both chambers of congress on both sides of the aisle: 2 dems from the house, 2 reps from the house, 2 dems from the senate and 2 reps from the senate, plus Obama and Biden = the Gang of 10.

    Oh and yes, Cantor wants Bonehead's job. But they both look like buffoons running the clown car so it's anybody's guess as to what happens to the house leadership in the near future.

  • Philat on July 14, 2011 8:56 AM:

    Eric Cantor--and unfortunately he's our representative--is "smart but arrogant as hell," that according to one his former math teachers, but now plays the role of the guy who can't keep his mouth shut while the grown ups are trying to reach a decision. Boehner looks good by comparison, even though he ranted on about taxing the rich because they were "job creators..." What corporate heads are doing is not creating jobs, but rather amassing money, keeping their shareholders happy and adding to their already bloated salaries.

  • sjw on July 14, 2011 9:00 AM:

    That it's Cantor now as point man and not Boehner or McConnnell makes me think that the latter two men are setting Cantor up for a shiv in the ribs. Cantor's not playing nice. He's not respecting the Republican pecking order. He's making a power grab that the Republican Establishment does not appreciate. And he is really really really scaring the business community, including the Chamber of Commerce, which typically supports the Republican Party.

  • FRP on July 14, 2011 9:04 AM:

    Shakespeare's plays were uniformly brilliant , written to entertain , plus keep his head attached his neck . Any deviation from the plot , the Terrible Plantagenet's to the Glorious Tudors , was just not done .
    Was Shakespeare a pragmatist , propagandist , or Blue dog Democrat ? .
    Going through the lists of lies against Richard , its too early .

  • marty on July 14, 2011 9:08 AM:

    “I was a little taken aback,” Mr. Cantor added.

    He continued- "All I wanted to do was get out of the meeting so I could get back to my office and jerk off to one of my Ayn Rand novels"

  • FRP on July 14, 2011 9:11 AM:

    swj you're point is historically accurate . Gee , I wonder what the Republican party thinks about traditions and accuracy today .

    vain im Can

    Speak to me Captcha

  • Eli Rabett on July 14, 2011 9:15 AM:

    Obama just turned the bluff back on the Republicans.

  • Texas Aggie on July 14, 2011 9:21 AM:

    That contingency plan that they're talking about should include Obama setting the ground rules, not Yertle. Those ground rules should be a one time increase in the debt limit with associated cuts in tax breaks and subsidies for those who don't need them (think EXXON, private yacht and jet owners, similar entities), fine tuning the tax code to charge hedge fund owners a normal rate (If they can afford $350 bottles of wine, they can afford to pay the same rate as their secretaries.), and penalties for corporations that off shore jobs.

  • T2 on July 14, 2011 9:33 AM:

    It was Cantor who WALKED OUT on Biden's group. Typical bully - can dish it out but can't take it.

    I'm glad to hear Obama put his foot down on these fools. I wish he would just get on TV and publicly accept McConnell's plan, get Reid to schedule a vote. OR just thank McConnell for his idea, thank the GOP for all their help, and invoke the 14th amendment and raise the damn rate. Let Roberts and Scalia take it from there.

  • June on July 14, 2011 9:43 AM:

    What @Texas Aggie said. I truly can't see how taking up McConnell's 'plan' would be anything more giving a huge political gift to McConnell in his despicable and relentless quest to sabotage Obama's presidency.

  • kahner on July 14, 2011 10:12 AM:

    But can Mitch McConnell's plan pass in the house? Has anyone tried to do a vote count?

  • ohhenery on July 14, 2011 11:07 AM:

    Dear Speaker of the House Boehner. Yeah we know you,re a Republican and don't like Democrats and Democrats don't like you. But I won't make fun of your name or your tears. You got one of those special carved out districts or one that has a little of everybody? You got an emergency room in your district? Why don't you put on a disquise (so you don't get the VIP tour) and go sit in one for a couple of hours... Take a whiskey sour in a coffee mug with you (and maybe some tissue). Maybe there'll be a Muppet movie on the TV -- Muppet movies are good for emergency rooms. Then go back to work and look at some of your colleagues. Maybe something changes. Maybe it doesn't. But the cat is out of the bag. I saw some of your humanity.

  • Anonymous on July 14, 2011 12:27 PM:

    ["If not, attention will turn to contingency plans, most notably Mitch McConnell’s proposal."]

    Though it's not my usual tone of languge...

    *FUCK* McConnell's proposal. At this point, Boener is flailing and will probably leap at a chance to get off the spot. Have him schedule a vote on a clean increase bill. All the Democrats and enough GOPers should vote for it, so it will make it out of the House. And since it is a budget matter, the Senate should be able to pass it with the reconciliation process, so no filibuster.

  • Hannah on July 14, 2011 1:19 PM:

    I just spoke with Cantor's office and told the nice young man to tell his boss to quit being such a "whiney baby" (got a chuckle from nice young man on that) and get it done. That was after I made my points about what the word "negotiate" means, that he needs to listen to business leaders, etc., that this debt belongs to the bush years (named tax cuts, wars, Medcr Pt D, none paid for), that the Rs voted to raise the ceiling 7 times under bush, etc.

    Cantor: 1-202-225-2815

    I also called my Repub congressman (who is supposedly one of the "sane" ones) again (2nd time this week) about the issue. I even got his staffers to agree with me. LOL.