Commentary Magazine


Obama: Why Isn’t Anyone Thinking About My Reelection?

President Obama used an interesting phrase to describe John Boehner’s debt ceiling bill today: “It’s a plan that would force us to relive this crisis in just a few short months… in other words, it does not solve the problem.”

This is a patently ridiculous statement on its face; the debt ceiling has to be raised regularly–as Obama has frequently reminded the American people during this debate. Does that mean “the problem” is never solved? If so, the GOP has nothing to do with it. Is Obama pushing for the elimination of the debt ceiling? No, what he meant to say was: “In other words, it does not solve my problem.”

Obama has realized–I think he figured it out a while ago, actually, and said so here–that with the shape the economy is in, he stands to lose big with the voters in 2012. He doesn’t much care if Republicans take heat for this impasse now, if he’s going to take heat next year if the economy doesn’t turn around. So what may have started as “the problem” has quickly become “Obama’s problem”–that the debt ceiling will have to be raised again before the next election.

This is quite a frank admission from the president. He is making it abundantly clear he is not winning this debate. (It’s possible nobody is, though.) If the president were confident about the way he has approached this issue, we would be seeing a calmer politician. But Obama is openly panicking. He has gone on TV over and over and over again practically begging the American people to do something about the evil Republicans threatening action that would hurt his reelection campaign.

“Please, to all the American people, keep it up,” he said. “If you want to see a bipartisan compromise, a bill that could pass both houses of Congress, and that I can sign, let your members of Congress know. Make a phone call, send an email, tweet. Keep the pressure on Washington.”

“Tweet.” In other words, “I’m desperate.” I don’t think Obama wants just any deal, which is why he’s been so intransigent on Boehner’s proposals. But I think he has noticeably shifted his priorities to getting this debate postponed until after the election.