An enraged Barack Obama just took to the nation’s airwaves to announce his effort to strike a deal with Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner has fallen apart. Perhaps for the first time in American history, this president is literally using this press conference to create a financial panic over the weekend about the opening of the markets on Monday. He is warning of disaster on Monday. Clearly, he wants to use this as leverage to frighten the GOP into passing the plan proposed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, which will push the debt ceiling problem into 2013, but it’s still an entirely new and astonishingly reckless gambit.
Watching the insta-reaction on Twitter is very instructive. Liberals say this is good for Obama because it shows GOP recalcitrance. Conservatives say that he has remained so committed to enormous tax increases that he tanked the very possibility of a deal. Time will tell, but it strikes me that the heated rhetoric he is using—”I didn’t get my phone call returned,” “I’ve been left at the altar,” “there’s nothing Republicans will say yes to”—does not suggest he, Obama, feels he has been handed a gift by Boehner and the GOP. He claims to have put $1.5 trillion in cuts on the table, plus $600 billion in entitlement reductions, in exchange for tax increases of the same size. He says Republicans said they would accept a dollar in higher taxes (or “revenue”) for every four dollars in cuts, which isn’t exactly saying “no’” to everything. For their part, Republicans in the House passed their cut, cap and balance bill on Wednesday, and it included an increase in the debt ceiling, so even by his own account his criticisms of the GOP are not accurate.