Pete Souza



Washington Dysfunction: Everybody Will Leave the Budget Debate Blemished

This budget stuff has me worried; uncertainty surrounding the debt ceiling has me even more worried. President Obama deserves plenty of the blame. He came into office speaking about a post-partisan era, yet partisan gridlock and petty bickering in Washington are more commonplace than ever. Obama’s presidency has been a major disappointment. Nothing can change that. He has never woken up to the fact that being president requires reaching across party lines and actually negotiating with people. He’s too busy thinking that he always knows what’s best and that he can charm his way through things. (Well, on both domestic and foreign policy, it appears that isn’t the case).

There is perhaps no other president in history with a greater aversion to talking with members of Congress. Obama is the loner-in-chief, content to remain aloof while current events and debates pass him by for as long as possible. Is he really saying that he won’t negotiate regarding the debt ceiling? What could be less presidential than refusing to even have a conversation?

Obama has thrown out red lines before and looked silly for not following through. Given the way he’s handled Syria, this time he might actually follow through on his commitment to not negotiate with Congress – just to demonstrate that he’s still “in charge.”

Congressional leaders in the House and Senate are not looking savvy either. More specifically, House speaker John Boehner needs to do a better job of controlling his own caucus. Unfortunately, he cannot, and so has decided to embrace irrationality and intransigence himself.

In this context, it would be an auspicious time for the GOP to strategize, modernize and prove to people that the party is not sliding into obsolescence.

Sadly, that doesn’t appear to be happening. It looks like the party is heading for even more division and less power in Washington.

The Tea Party continues to be a major problem for rational people on the right side of the political spectrum. A group of political amateurs masquerading as patriots shouldn’t be venerated. Rather, they should be excoriated for what amounts to anti-Americanism. Yes, that’s right. By taking petty politics to a new level, Senator Ted Cruz and the Tea Party have shown they don’t care about the well-being of these United States of America. Their own political agenda is what most concerns them.

I thought that post-Romney, the GOP would do a bit of soul searching. I hoped there was some consensus that moderation and embracing diversity were urgently needed. I was even cautiously optimistic that myopia and rhetoric would not be the norm. I was wrong.

There’s a battle raging within the GOP and the narrow-minded extremists are winning. This is especially true in the House. Undoubtedly, redistricting has had devastating effects on bipartisanship, but that’s no excuse for failing to govern for the common good. It looks like the GOP wants to be at the forefront of confrontation, even if it hurts the country. If the GOP cannot reform itself after what was, in every sense, a catastrophic and unprecedented defeat in 2012, when would the party ever contemplate doing so?

And how about Mr. Cruz’s performance? Could he make it any more obvious that he’s running for president in 2016? More to the point, does he think that his behavior surrounding the budget debate qualifies him to run the country?!

Mr. Cruz’s meteoric rise in popularity among ultra conservatives is alarming. Although he has very little experience in government, he’s bold, ambitious, smart and even – and, yes, I’m mentioning it – has a Hispanic last name.

Cruz is right to criticize the Affordable Care Act, but linking it to the budget is wrong, disingenuous and irresponsible. There was a referendum on “Obamacare.” It’s called the 2012 presidential election. Those votes are in. Improve it if you can, but face reality and accept the fact that you lost on the issue. The fact that certain elements of the GOP are attempting to tie Obamacare to the budget is morally reprehensible.

For Obama, this is just another chapter in a failed presidency. For Republicans, it’s a reminder that they don’t have leaders in place who are ready to guide the party into the twenty-first century. Perhaps more tellingly, this is a sobering reinforcement that America’s political system is more broken than ever.

Whether the US is able to pass a budget soon and avert a default is anybody’s guess. Regardless, there’s going to be a lengthy post-mortem in the coming weeks and months. In that context, one thing is irrefutable: everybody leaves this debate blemished.