Steve Benen: President Obama met with several leading congressional Republicans yesterday to discuss budget cuts and the debt ceiling, and not surprisingly, there wasn’t much in the way of progress…
…one of the more striking aspects of yesterday’s gathering was the increasingly-explicit nature of the Republican hostage strategy … the hostage-strategy dynamic isn’t new, but it’s uncommon for Republican members of Congress to be this candid about their plan out loud. One leading GOP lawmaker acknowledged that the Republican plan is “dangerous,” but the party doesn’t care. Another conceded that the GOP is inviting a “sovereign debt crisis,” but figures Obama would get the blame, so Republicans don’t care about that, either.
…As far as Republicans are concerned, there’s no need to compromise – they’re the ones with the gun and the hostage. Why strike a deal? If Obama caves, they get what they want. If Obama stands firm, and the GOP deliberately destroys the economy, Republicans will blame the president and destroy his chances of re-election.
…this is arguably one of the great political scandals of recent American history. There is no modern precedent for a political party acting like an organized crime family this shamelessly. The American public isn’t hearing much about these tactics, but I can’t help but wonder what the mainstream would think if someone were to tell them that the Republican Party intends to cause a recession, on purpose, unless Democrats drastically cut Medicare and other popular domestic programs.
CNN: … The White House was feeling optimistic that it was on the verge of a deal Thursday night. John Boehner and Harry Reid left the Oval Office meeting, “there was kind of an agreement on a range and agreement on the kind of composition,” said one of five officials who briefed reporters.
But by three or four o’clock in the morning Friday, the officials described a breakdown … “There was a higher number,” said one official, “north of $80 billion dollars. There was also renewed talk about family planning.
As sharp verbal punches were thrown throughout the day on Capitol Hill, the White House kept silent. The president never made any public statements and spokesman Jay Carney never held his daily briefing. That was not by accident…
It was a “directive from him [president],” one official said. The idea was to stay out of sight, avoid finger pointing, and allow negotiators to work out a compromise.
…”Every time the process seemed to get bogged down the president picked up the phone and made clear that we had a responsibility to the American people…that we shouldn’t play politics. He did not want this to become a family planning bill he wanted it to be a spending bill”…
…on Friday the president spoke by phone with House Speaker Boehner four times. He also spoke with Senate majority leader Reid “multiple times”…
During one of the Oval Office meeting this week, one of the officials described how the president went through every controversial rider that Republicans wanted …In describing the tone of these meetings one official said “at no point did the discussions in the room get personal”. The president never scolded Boehner for public comments that appeared to contradict what was being discussed in private negotiations….
Neither side wanted a government shutdown, but the president wasn’t willing to give ground on allowing the controversial family planning rider to be part of the deal. “…we just were not going to move on this”…
….So what forced the deal? “The clock probably played the most important factor,” said one of the officials. With the clock winding down Rob Nabors, the President’s Legislative Affairs Director, was on the Hill, kept the White House informed throughout the negotiation process and signaled that a deal had been reached. It was White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley who informed the president around 10:30pm.
The UK Guardian: If the Obama administration does nothing else, it will always compare favourably with Bush’s for its diplomacy over Libya
The New York Times called it “inconsistent”. The Wall Street Journal questioned whether “any direction” could be divined behind the decision. But in referring to America’s part in the attack on Libyan forces, the mainstream media is blind to what has been a brilliant diplomatic – and domestic – political strategy on the part of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
…Having learned the lessons of Iraq and countless other American boondoggles in the region, President Obama has played his hand deftly to avoid accusations of American imperialism and to project the optics of consensus. Today, as the United States engages once more in the Middle East, it does so with the imprimatur of a United Nations resolution and an impressive coalition of allies – not just George Bush’s “coalition of the willing” – but countries not usually associated with military intervention in the region, including France and the countries of the Arab League.
…President Obama has “played it cool” – refusing to cut short his trip to Latin America and emphasising that American action will be short (if committed). This is a far cry from the sort of chest-thumping bellicosity from the Oval Office we saw under Bush.
There are, of course, domestic politics at play here as well. America is tired of seeing its military in Iraq and Afghanistan, let alone getting involved in a new Middle Eastern conflict. But through diplomatic and strategic manoeuvering, President Obama has ensured that the United States is simply one nation among many engaging in the region, lifting some of the weight of history from the shoulders of the nation.