Political Animal


July 14, 2011 9:30 AM GOP pretends Obama is the hostage-taker

By Steve Benen

Congressional Republicans’ debt-ceiling strategy hasn’t been subtle: give the GOP what it wants or the party will refuse to raise the debt ceiling. For months, Democrats and others who take reality seriously have called this what it is: a hostage strategy.

Yesterday, these same Republicans decided President Obama is holding the economy hostage. No, seriously. Stop laughing. That’s really what they said.

“President Obama is holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage so he can continue his spending spree,” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said at a press conference. Soon after, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) made a similar comment, prompting reporters to ask if he was arguing that the president is the hostage-taker in this scenario. “Yes!” Lee said. “That’s exactly what I’m saying. That’s absolutely what I’m saying.”

No sane person could possibly take this seriously. It’s just laughable at every level. For one thing, Obama has gone to absurd lengths to strike a deal that Republicans should like. For another, it’s up to Congress to pass a bill raising the debt ceiling.

The new GOP tack is also undermined by a few Republicans who know better.

“Our problem is, we made a big deal about this for three months,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina.

“How many Republicans have been on TV saying, ‘I am not going to raise the debt limit,’ ” said Mr. Graham, including himself in the mix of those who did so. “We have no one to blame but ourselves.”

He added, “We shouldn’t have said that if we didn’t mean it.”

Graham’s observation has the added benefit of being true. In this case, the hostage takers spent months threatening to pull the trigger, only to suddenly realize that (a) they’re not likely to get the ransom they want; and (b) they don’t really want to follow through on their threat anyway. It’s what led Mitch McConnell to come up with a safety valve this week, which by all indications, was a major walkback.

But McConnell’s not driving his party’s message right now. Indeed, the crazies are, and yesterday, they were reduced to, “Oh yeah, well Obama’s the one holding the economy hostage!”

Today, I can only assume the GOP position will evolve into an argument over which one of the parties is rubber and which one is glue.

Dave Weigel has more along these lines: “Republicans have a problem: You can’t run the McConnell play and the Bachmann/Lee play at once.”

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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  • slappy magoo on July 14, 2011 9:36 AM:

    Scorched earth strategy, the only surefire strategy in the GOP playbook. "I'm a low info voter. Obama says the right's holding the debt limit (whatever THAT is) hostage, the right says the same thing about Obama. I don't know what's going on. I don't know who to trust. I...I'm just going to stay home on Election Day. I don't want to pick the wrong side. They're all the same anyway, it doesn't matter who I vote for, so I'm just not going to vote."
    And that's how Republicans win.

  • Al on July 14, 2011 9:38 AM:

    With so many allegations being thrown around by both sides, it's impossible to see where the truth is. What we need is a blue-ribbon bipartisan committee to investigate and see if there are grounds for BHO's impeachment.

  • tomb on July 14, 2011 9:38 AM:


    You have written many posts related to accusations made by Karl Rove that accuse Democrats of behaviors that he himself was the worst offender of. I'm sure you can recall the details much easier than I can. But this pattern of projection seems to be chronic among conservatives. Is it a conscious strategic act or one that comes from mental dissonance caused by reality pushing back against deeply held beliefs. Either way, it's very curious.

  • Mr. Serf Man on July 14, 2011 9:41 AM:

    "No sane person could possibly take this seriously"
    Watch yer nightly nooze.
    There will be a least a 30 second spot on this right after a 15 minute piece on the latest tweeted dick picture (or equivalent)
    It will be presented as is , no feedback no rebuttal .

    Trust me

  • JD on July 14, 2011 9:43 AM:

    You missed the most basic reason that they are wrong: Obama's original position was a clean bill. That's all it takes to get this done, a sentence that raises the debt limit to a specific dollar amount.

    I'm sure that the president would accept this with alacrity, yet the Republicans insist on this farcical and cynical exercise in futility.

  • Josef K on July 14, 2011 9:45 AM:

    “We shouldn’t have said that if we didn’t mean it.”

    Problem there, Senator Graham, is that your colleagues do mean it. You're in the same caucus as a collection of fools who appear to honestly think the US defaulting will be a good thing.

    Scary, huh?

  • nerd on July 14, 2011 9:45 AM:

    There is a fundamental difference between the two sides:

    The Democrats want to address issues and are willing to compromise to get things done.

    The Republicans want to destroy the Obama presidency and to defeat the Democrats.

    Sure, the Democrats want to defeat the Republicans, but the Dems are in office to do a job for the people who elected them. For Republicans their elected office seems not even to be an afterthought.

    The Republicans talk about the debt and are eager to enact spending cuts, but they also want to make corresponding cuts in taxes that nullify any gains the spending cuts make in the debt. In getting the spending and tax cuts the Rs expect to satisfy their base and piss off the President's base.

    Why oh why isn't this pointed out by the media?

  • walt on July 14, 2011 9:51 AM:

    Is it chutzpah if you really believe it?

    It's always fascinating to watch the psychological tic where bullies imagine themselves to be the victims. Listen to Rush Limbaugh for five minutes and the sotto voce self-pity becomes unmistakeable. Of course, Karl Rove discovered how to perform jujitsu on this human foible by inverting the other side's strength into a weakness.

    You'll fight a war with any means possible. For the GOP, politics is war. They're very well-equipped, eager, and self-brainwashing soldiers. All we can do is sit back here and admire their brazenness. Nothing is left uncontested. Not Michelle's lunch, not Barack's parentage, not America's credit rating. Nothing.

  • c u n d gulag on July 14, 2011 9:51 AM:

    This is what happens when the angry and insane go and vote, and the disinterested sit on their asses.

    I swear, if the Republican sides of the Senate and House had actual HORSES sitting and voting, we'd be better off than these horse's asses suffering from equine dementia deciding our nations future.

    Remember this if there's a next time, voters:

    Elections have consequences.
    And one of them may well be suicide by f*cking stupidity.

  • FRP on July 14, 2011 9:52 AM:

    Yes , YES Eureka !
    Thats IT !
    Impeachment !
    For what ails ya !
    Impeachment is the cure !
    Oh what simpletons we live with . Any one with any brains would have impeached the President immeejadtly .

    Oh what worthies we are , using up all the worlds resources , and that is a chore ! Keeping a police force around the world , and countin all the money we have by virtue of a "Free" market .
    Free unless you are a Vietnamese fisherman selling Catfish !
    No wonder we forgot to impeach the President .

  • DAY on July 14, 2011 9:58 AM:

    "spending spree"?

    Well, everybody knows that negroes can't handle money.

  • berttheclock on July 14, 2011 10:02 AM:

    @cundgulag, yes, elections do have consequences. Consider that several NFL millionaire players threw their support to Bush in 2000 and again in '04. Funny thing about that - Bush appointed the two RepuG Appellate Judges to the Court of Appeals in St Louis, who held for the owners in the Lockout. The jurist in Minneapolis who held for the rights of the players was appointed by Clinton. Yes, NFL player, you may be a millionaire, but, in the eyes of the Bush judges, you are just a peon worker bee.

  • T-Rex on July 14, 2011 10:06 AM:

    Well, if Obama hadn't had the presumptuous gall to get elected, they wouldn't have to do this in order to destroy his presidency, now would they? Isn't it clear who's the innocent victim of his outrageous uppityness, and who's the hostage-taker?

  • karen marie on July 14, 2011 10:13 AM:

    The media -- including NPR -- are doing their usual "let the listener decide," presenting unchallenged statements from Bachmann et al accusing Democrats of being bad-faith negotiators and hostage-takers.

    Unfortunately, when Republicans drive the car off the cliff few of these media people will be among those who lose everything.

  • revchicoucc on July 14, 2011 10:18 AM:

    "No sane person . . ."

    If it was an individual, I would say the Republican Party is exhibiting signs of untreated mental illness. Among them: constantly changing what one says and does so that the people around you are kept continuously off-balance by your unpredictability.

    The House Tea Party freshman, who look to Rep. Bachmann for their cues, are exhibiting this kind of behavior -- unpredictable, disconnected from reality, self-serving.

    If you have ever dealt with someone with untreated mental illness (emphasis on untreated), you know not to put them in charge of something important.

  • berttheclock on July 14, 2011 10:21 AM:

    Separation of Powers takes on a new meaning, when, you have Alito's former law clerk sitting as a US Senator. Mike Lee served under Alito twice, first, when Alito was a Judge in the 3rd District Appellate Court, and, then, one year as his clerk when Alito became a Supreme Court Justice.

    When, Lee speaks, it is as though Alito is trying to control the Senate.

  • T2 on July 14, 2011 10:25 AM:

    "Graham’s observation has the added benefit of being true."

    When the Republicans start making statements that are true, you have to know that their Party is in serious disarray.

  • biggerbox on July 14, 2011 10:31 AM:

    Like Alice's Red Queen, members of the GOP are capable of believing six impossible things before breakfast, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that they will try to run the McConnell play and the Lee/Bachmann play simultaneously.

  • PTate in Mn on July 14, 2011 10:37 AM:

    I wish I could find this funny. Maybe I'll see the humor after we get a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling.

    Really, these fruitcakes are accusing Obama of holding the debt ceiling hostage??? Wow. Delusional thugs, backed into a corner but holding powerful weapons, are dangerous.

  • blondie on July 14, 2011 10:52 AM:

    Well, I just chewed my representative's legislative director a new hole (I am unfortunately represented by a Rethuglican). When I pointed to the debt ceiling crisis being due to spending that's ALREADY occurred, he tried to blame the President for out-of-control spending, bringing up the stimulus package. I threw the Bush tax cuts, Medicare Part D and the Iraq war back at him.

    Whew. I know it did no good whatsoever with my idiot representative, but I feel a little better.

  • berttheclock on July 14, 2011 10:56 AM:

    To his credit, thia AM, Joe Scarborough had the guts to call this "Bush's Debt Ceiling". He went on to say, should Obama prevail in 2012, then, all debt ceilings in 2016 would be Obama's.