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The Education of Barack Obama

Yesterday the White House announced that President Obama regrets his 2006 vote as a senator against raising the debt limit—the same kind of increase he’s now urging Congress to approve. Obama “thinks it was a mistake,” presidential spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “He realizes now that raising the debt ceiling is so important to the health of this economy and the global economy that it is not a vote that, even when you are protesting an administration’s policies, you can play around with.”

This is a shift from January, when former press secretary Robert Gibbs explained that the Obama vote was simply “sending a message,” since he knew the debt ceiling was going to be raised regardless of how he voted. That spin is now done.

The fact that in 2006 Obama was so ignorant or so irresponsibly partisan, or both, tells you quite a lot. After all, this was not a “youthful indiscretion”; it was a vote cast by a United States Senator. And it’s not simply the vote we should focus on; take a look at what Obama said at the time:

The fact that we’re here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign — is a sign of leadership failure. Leadership means the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.

The debt problem is of course many times worse than it was in 2006. So is the failure of leadership.

One good thing to emerge from all this is that the president may be learning that he wasn’t (and isn’t) nearly as smart as he thought.

Call it the Education of Barack Obama.


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