The PJ Tatler

The Emergence of President No

For a president who claims to be open to compromise, Barack Obama is beginning to morph into a “President No.”

This is where we are in the last moments of the debt ceiling debate. The Democrats have turned nasty, dirty and ugly.

With an American credit downgrade looming, Democrats now pledge to defeat any Republican solution that seeks to reach the president’s desk.

The “No sentiment” emerged in mid July when the President vowed to veto the House deficit bill, “Cut, Cap and Balance.”

Today White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe boasted that Speaker John Boehner’s bill, if it is sent to the Oval Office it would be “dead on arrival.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) expressed the same exact sentiment to reporters.

So the president now has his choice of two House debt reduction bills to veto: last week’s adopted Cut, Cap and Balance bill or the Budget Control Act, Speaker Boehner’s newest bill.

Joining the “No chorus” was New York’s polite Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer.  Here are his words of “compromise:”

““It  won’t make a darn bit of difference because it’s not going to pass this house,” Senator Schumer told NBC News. “We have made that clear in the letter that 53 of us signed yesterday and nothing has changed.  The idea that we will take Boehner’s bill and pass it or take Boehner’s bill and tweak it and pass it is not what is going to happen.”

The capital issue circulating in D.C. is whether the president is serious about vetoing the Boehner bill. Or is he bluffing? Many Washington observers (here and here for instance) suggest that trotting out an aide to say they would “recommend” a veto is not real veto talk.

In the waning hours of this monumental battle Reid may now realize that while he can defeat Boehner’s bill he will not have the votes to pass his own version.  As the Washington Post’s Marc Thiessen observes:

“Reid does not have the votes to overcome a GOP filibuster in the Senate — and if Reid cannot pass his plan, then the Boehner plan is the only game in town.”

This may explain why in the last hours of this drama Democrats are “going negative.” They are losing the battle. They don’t have the votes.

If the Democrats do go negative in the eleventh hour it could be a huge strategic mistake. Changing the tone from “let’s get along” to shrill denunciation diminishes their political power. Then Democrats could surrender the political high ground and alienate independent voters.

As the election of 2010 shows, that would not be a good thing.