President Obama and the Debt Crisis: Detached, Alone, and Passive

None of the plans being debated today have the imprimatur of the Oval Office. At a moment when presidential leadership is so vital, President Obama has been passive. Passivity also was the hallmark of his approach to his other signature blockbuster initiatives: the TARP bailout, ObamaCare, and the financial services initiatives.

This of course makes perfect political sense for Obama. The only currency here in Washington is political currency. In Washington, make-believe numbers over dollars and cents are the tradition of both parties.

So as a stalemate approaches, the only question of substance is: Who lost America's credit rating? The president can answer that Congress did, or the Tea Party did, or Speaker Boehner did. But the truth is there is only one president of the United States. There is only one national leader. And at the end of the day that's how he will be judged.

There is also the overt politicization of the debt crisis. In February, the president coyly asked to raise the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion through 2013. The timing was not an accident. It was designed to allow the credit limit to expire after the next presidential election. Clearly there also was the stink of politics behind the timetable.

Economists have estimated that if our indebtedness continues on its current glide path, the debt ceiling will balloon to $26 trillion by 2020, or 100% of our gross national product.

Presidential leadership is essential at a moment of high peril.

Certainly high unemployment, a disastrous housing market, and a stagnant economy are national tragedies that occurred on the president's watch. But these economic woes may be footnotes in the face of a debt-swollen government that ultimately kills American creditworthiness and long-term prosperity.