Good grief - who can keep up? There are so many possible deals, deadlines, and retractions floating around that these debt ceiling negotiations are getting downright bamboozling (although, it's probably just the darn media's fault, because they just won't "let" the poor President "be clear," as he is constantly reminding us).
In the latest installment of The Great Political Soap Opera of Our Time, Speaker Boehner 'walked out' of Friday afternoon's meeting, once again frustrated at the White House's lack of seriousness concerning our spending crisis. His office released this letter this evening, stating that Boehner intends to start talking with hopefully-more-pliable Senate leadership:
A deal was never reached, and was never really close.
In the end, we couldn't connect. Not because of different personalities, but because of different visions for our country.
The president is emphatic that taxes have to be raised. As a former small businessman, I know tax increases destroy jobs.
The president is adament that we cannot make fundamental changes to our entitlement programs. As the father of two daughters, I know these programs won't be there for their generation unless significant action is taken now.
For these reasons, I have decided to end discussions with the White House and begin conversations with the leaders of the Senate in an effort to find a path forward.
Yikes - apprently the President felt pretty miffed at that one, taking to the podium for an impromtu presser and telling reporters that he had once again been "left at the altar." Besides some more clever metaphors (truly, the President has a dizzying intellect!), Obama just offered up more of the usual tripe: Rich people need to share in the sacrifice of our runaway spending. Somebody, but not me, better put forth a good plan, or else. The American people just want fairness. We've run out of time. Nobody understands me. (Okay, he didn't say that last one, but his tone was so petulant, you know he was thinking it. Honestly, I think the President feels so mistreated he would rather sink this ship than let anybody else steer it.)
The President said he would be willing to sign a debt ceiling hike to carry us through to 2013, but hopes that Congress can accomplish something a bit closer to epic budgetary reform in the here and now. He sternly called upon Congressional leaders to meet at the White House at 11:00 a.m. Saturday morning - but if you don't bother to build a plan, will they come?
Although I must say, my favorite bit was when the President called upon lawmakers to stop worrying about the voices of radio talk show hosts, of pledges made to the American people, and of upcoming primaries and elections. In essence, ignore the American people - do what's right, and stop worrying about your political future. ....Seriously? Feeling even loftier than usual today, are we? Nearly every move this man makes is geared toward November 2012 - unless, of course, campaigning has become so much a part of the fiber of his being that he doesn't even realize he's doing it anymore.
Update: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was not amused, reports The Hill:
“Republicans have once again proven unable to overcome their ideological opposition to ending taxpayer-funded giveaways for millionaires, corporate jet owners and oil companies... I applaud President Obama for insisting that any deal to reduce our deficit be balanced between cuts and revenues... We must avert a default at all costs, so it is time to reengage in bipartisan talks on an agreement that at least accomplishes that goal... I agree with President Obama that a short-term extension is unacceptable.”
Update II: One good presser deserves another. Speaker Boehner had a few more choice thoughts to share in his spontaneous follow-up to Obama's news conference, stating that he has given the President's tax-hiking suggestions serious consideration, but knows they'd be terrible for the country, and Obama "moved the goal posts" of their agreement at the last minute. He also said he's "not really interested in" a short-term debt limit increase, and offered up some words of wisdom: "Dealing with the White House is like dealing with a bowl of jello." Hmm... apt simile? Or Obama/facepalm-worthy? They may not agree about our fiscal future, but surely they can bond over their peculiar penchant for literary devices.