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July 21, 2011 4:45 PM ‘It’s his debt ceiling’

By Steve Benen

To appreciate just how difficult it is to communicate with House Republicans, consider the perspective of freshman Rep. Mo Brooks (R) of Alabama.

As the stalemate over the debt ceiling has demonstrated, it is impossible to strike compromise when the negotiating parties do not agree on what counts as a concession. [Yesterday], freshman Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) showed yet again why the Republican Party’s perverse concept of compromise has left the U.S. on the brink of default.

During an interview with MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer, Brooks insisted that Republicans have already compromised with President Obama by agreeing to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for a laundry list of right-wing policies, including an amendment to the Constitution. “Why should we give Barack Obama $2.4 trillion? It’s his debt,” Brooks said. “It’s his debt ceiling.”

“It’s his debt ceiling” reminds me of House Speaker John Boehner’s recent assertion about President Obama: “This debt limit increase is his problem.”

The scope of the irresponsibility and immaturity is almost impressive.

In case anyone’s forgotten, this isn’t Obama’s debt; it’s our debt. The deficit didn’t soar when Obama took office; it soared when Bush/Cheney was in office. And it’s not Obama’s debt ceiling; it’s the country’s debt ceiling.

What’s more, there’s really nothing partisan about any of this. If the McCain/Palin administration was in office today touting its support for Paul Ryan’s budget plan, the debt limit would still need to be raised in order for the United States to pay its bills.

But in case that weren’t quite enough, during the MSNBC interview, Contessa Brewer noted that much of the debt is the direct result of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Brooks blamed them on Obama, too: “[H]e’s the commander in chief and he could have removed our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan at any given time if he had so chosen.”

Um, Mo? The war in Afghanistan started in 2001. The war in Iraq started in 2003. Obama wasn’t even in the Senate at the time. It wasn’t his idea to finance two wars entirely through deficit financing; it was Republicans who said that the United States, for the first time in our history, should fight two wars and pile literally all of the costs onto the national debt.

As Tanya Somanader joked, “In order for Brooks to win his blame game, Obama would have to go back in time, elect himself president in 2000, reverse his positions, and go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a hollow accusation — unless, of course, Brooks’ economics degree came with a concentration in time travel.”

I’d also note, by the way, that at the time, GOP lawmakers were only too pleased to repeatedly raise the debt ceiling — seven times in eight years — to accommodate the Republican fiscal agenda.

I’ve heard Republicans blame Obama for all kinds of bizarre things, but Mo Brooks is breaking new ground with his inanity. And remember, this is the sort of guy Democrats are expected to satisfy or Republicans will crash the economy on purpose in just 12 days.

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.

Comments

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  • dj spellchecka on July 21, 2011 4:50 PM:

    two things: the bush tax cuts rather than the bush wars are the biggest driver of the debt...

    and imagine the republican howling if obama had simply announced "i'm ending the wars and bringing everyone home."

  • Troy on July 21, 2011 4:50 PM:

    But how is this playing in Peoria?

    That's all that matters.

  • NonyNony on July 21, 2011 4:52 PM:

    He's the commander in chief and he could have removed our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan at any given time if he had so chosen.

    The fact that the interviewer did not immediately follow up with a question to the effect of "So Mr. Brooks are you saying that it is your position that we need to remove the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan right now in order to balance our budget and that you're prepared to introduce legislation to that effect?" points out just how stupid the media discourse is.

    Seriously - that's a jaw droppingly stupid statement by Brooks and in a sane media environment it would have been pounced upon, ripped to shreds and he would have walked away crying from the interview. I can only imagine what a politician being grilled by the Beeb would have looked like after uttering something so jaw-droppingly stupid as that.

  • Schtick on July 21, 2011 4:59 PM:

    I wish there was some way to bring back the fairness doctrine just so we could get rid of Rush, Beck, and Faux Faked and Bullshit news. It would be so sweet and wonderful to just have journalism in our news again instead of bought and paid for talking repubbagger heads.

    crapcha....stinitiv 000....what a zero.

  • efgoldman on July 21, 2011 5:00 PM:

    Wait.
    Does this guy really have a degree in economics, or is our host finally just too tired of it all not to get snarkastic?
    And if he does: Where? BillyBob Xtian State?

  • dalloway on July 21, 2011 5:11 PM:

    Well, honey, that remark wasn't meant for us, the sentient, thinking people. That was meant for his mouth-breathing base who believe the Muslim Kenyan Terrorist is destroying this Christian nation. Of course it's his debt ceiling -- because he's also Satan and responsible for all evil. Boneheads like this guy have to say those things because they're so utterly wrong on, you know, the facts.

  • -syzygy- on July 21, 2011 5:11 PM:

    These right-wing extremists may be crazy, but they make up for it by being stupid. I beginning to wonder if they're trying to force Obama to invoke the 'constitutional' option to solve the debt ceiling crisis. In that way they can pursue the 'impeachment' item on their agenda, something that they've wanted to do (like shutting down the guvmint) since the day they took their oaths of office.

  • martin on July 21, 2011 5:18 PM:

    Ok, let me take this opportunity to, ONCE AGAIN, apologize for the quality of politician we elect in the state. There's just nothing we can do about it. Jeez, it get depressing.

    And really, Captcha has got to quit producing words with other than English letters.

  • T2 on July 21, 2011 5:29 PM:

    Mo is correct. Obama can order the "wars" to stop at any time and bring the troops home, saving billions of wasted dollars. Sure Bush started the "wars", but they are Obama's wars now, he's CinC. In his power, he can stop them today. In his power, he could have also let the Bush Tax Cuts for the Rich expire. He has chosen to do neither.

  • MCD on July 21, 2011 5:33 PM:

    Republicans know Obama is an adult, and will thus solve all their problems, entitling them to act like children.

    I have a suspicion that, knowing that Obama won't let the country default, they are taking advantage of the situation to force a pretext for impeachment. Either he orders the Treasury to issue enough debt to cover the nation's obligations, so they can impeach him for ignoring the debt limit; or he cuts spending to stay under the debt limit, and they impeach him for ignoring the budget act's mandated spending. Win, win!

    If Obama had just had some sort of minor scandal in his administration over the past 2 1/2 years, they could have impeached him for that, and we would have been able to avoid this whole mess. Seriously, couldn't Obama have given Terrell Pryor a free tattoo or something?

  • Archon on July 21, 2011 5:37 PM:

    Obama as partisan politician would let the country default, stop sending out SS checks, wait for the pitchfolks to come after the Republicans then pick up the pieces. Obama the statesman has to invoke the 14th Amendment, take a hit and spend the next 12 months dealing with the impending constitution crisis and his impeachment from the House of Representatives.

    Obama's in a weird situation too because I'm sure his political advisers are telling him he'd win the default argument but his policy people are telling him it would be a disaster.

  • cwolf on July 21, 2011 5:38 PM:

    Why the insistence the "...debt limit would still need to be raised in order for the United States to pay its bills."

    I'd have to say the 14th amendment to the constitution prohibits the political imposition of what is being called the 'debt limit'.

    And the most fiscally successful President since forever agrees with me: Bill Clinton: "I Would Raise Debt Ceiling And ‘Force The Courts To Stop Me."

    What's wrong with Obama? Ain't he a Constitutional Scholar? Did he play hookey when the 14th came up at Harvard?

  • Jon on July 21, 2011 5:55 PM:

    I'd be delighted to carve out the Republican part of the economy and give it to Mo (hey, Mo!), and keep the Democratic part to myself. Wish it worked that way.

  • Davis X. Machina on July 21, 2011 6:48 PM:

    I’d also note, by the way, that at the time, GOP lawmakers were only too pleased to repeatedly raise the debt ceiling...

    But never, not even when there was a GOP House and a GOP president, with a majority of the necessary votes coming from the House Republican caucus.

  • pj in jesusland on July 21, 2011 10:18 PM:

    If GOP lawmakers are willing to lie about the debt being caused by Obama what else are they lying to us about?

    Let me suggest a few: weapons of mass destruction, al Qaeda in Iraq, torture, secret phone surveillance, global warming, voter fraud, tax cuts create jobs and budget surpluses, Obama's a secret Muslim . . .

    These guys just aren't believable. They're still riding on Reagan's coattails. They've lost credibility on defense and on the economy. They are in a steep intellectual decline that will lead to their exile from the White House for many years.

  • pj in jesusland on July 21, 2011 10:19 PM:

    If GOP lawmakers are willing to lie about the debt being caused by Obama what else are they lying to us about?

    Let me suggest a few: weapons of mass destruction, al Qaeda in Iraq, torture, secret phone surveillance, global warming, voter fraud, tax cuts create jobs and budget surpluses, Obama's a secret Muslim . . .

    These guys just aren't believable. They're still riding on Reagan's coattails. They've lost credibility on defense and on the economy. They are in a steep intellectual decline that will lead to their exile from the White House for many years.

  • nk007 on July 22, 2011 5:28 AM:

    @T2, I am sorry to say but you are an idiot!

  • Anonymous on July 22, 2011 5:58 AM:

    @cwolf, May be you and Bill Clinton want Obama to be the 3rd President, in history, impeached by the House of Representative. Bill Clinton would then have company. The fact of the matter is there are no precedents about Presidents invoking the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling. Congress routinely raises the debt ceiling. So why are you all of a sudden putting the onus of raising the debt ceiling on the President and not on Congress?

    It's really amazing how so many goal posts have been moved ever since this country took a bold move of electing a Black president. Now I fully understand why black parents always taught their children that in order for them to expect recognition acceptance and fair treatment, they have to be twice as good as white children. President Clinton is asking President Obama to do something that he was never faced with. I repeat, NO WHITE president has ever been threatened with the prospect of plunging the country in economic default because congress refused to raise the debt ceiling to pay for the bills Congress approved.

    White supremacist, from both the right and the left, need not plunge the country in economic chaos because they hate the idea of a having a Black President. All they need to do is organize to defeat him for re-election in 2012; unless, of course, they are trying to punish the country for having elected him.

  • Kathryn on July 22, 2011 10:00 AM:

    Agree with comments from MCD, Arclon and Anonymous. For what it's worth, a prominent law professor from Harvard said on Rachel Maddow's Show two or three days ago that Pres. Obama can only invoke the 14th Amendment in order to save the Republic from catastrophe. If he's correct, and let's face it he knows more about interpreting the Constitution then the majority of us, Obama can only act after the debt limit has been reached with the expected chaos or slightly before when chaos has already hit the markets, Moody's ratings, etc. Anyway you slice it, a certain level of destruction needs to occur before Pres Obama can act unilaterally to save the Republic, if Harvard professor is right.

    Personally, I have scant hope that any deal will be reached, even the grand bargain currently being spoken of in Steve's morning post (July 22, 2011), Boehner is not capable of getting the votes without complete Obama capitulation and a complete capitulation by Obama would hand the GOP the White House and Senate and create an understandable revolt by the Democrats. So, if Pres. Obama has no choice but the use the 14th Amendment in the waning hours of this clusterf..k, despite the necessity of doing so, we will spend the remaining year of his term on impeachment attempts by the GOP. Hope I'm wrong. Sadly, very sadly, I believe that from day one the plan has been to destroy Obama Presidency at any cost and the chief reason is because he's an African-American, second reason he's a Democrat, the black part really fed the fire.

  • Flash-Invader on July 30, 2011 9:43 AM:

    The USA is spending an eye watering $2.5bn a day (Yes a day) on fighting wars when the USA is not even under attack but they donít seem to put that on the table when they talk about debt spending and stopping people pensions who have paid for them all their lives.

    http://www.flashinvader.com/new_world_order/usa_is_spending_over_two_and_a_half_billions_usd_per_day_on_war.html

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