I cannot wait to see video of this excruciatingly awesome exchange between ABC newsman Jake Tapper and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. Tapper's bottom line question is, which would be worse: A default on the national debt, or a short-term hike of the debt ceiling, resulting in another debt ceiling vote prior to the 2012 election? Carney's eventual answer: I don't know. Until YouTube does its magic, we're stuck with a written transcript; but what a transcript it is. As you read this, remember this: The White House has been shrieking every single day (correctly, Paul Ryan would add) that a downgrade in our national credit rating due to a partial default would be catastrophic for our economy. Therefore, the answer to Tapper's question should be a no-brainer -- especially with reports circulating about President Obama beating his chest about "not yielding" on the debt ceiling, even if it "takes down" his presidency. And yet...
TAPPER: The worst-case scenario here is a default, right?
CARNEY: That is a bad scenario. I'm not sure -- I mean --
TAPPER: Is it worse --
CARNEY: You know, there are things you could anticipate. But I -- yes.
TAPPER: Is it worse than voting on the debt ceiling again next year?
CARNEY: The uncertainty created by regular votes on whether or not, for the first time -- you know, and if you think it's -- there's -- there are political --
TAPPER: Weren't there regular votes on raising the debt ceiling during the Bush years?
CARNEY: There are -- well, but it had not -- it had not become -- look -- yeah, boy, there were. It's funny that you should mention it, because -- (laughter) --
TAPPER: There were. Every year --
CARNEY: -- collectively, the Republican negotiators in these room -- in this room with the president have voted to raise the debt limit 25 times. The speaker of the House has voted six times. The majority leader of the House has voted to raise the debt limit five times in his career in the House. Senator McConnell has voted to raise the debt limit eight times; Senator Kyl, six times.
TAPPER: Senator Obama voted against it one time.
CARNEY: He -- and he has made very clear that he now views that as a mistake.
REPORTER: Over what period is that?
TAPPER: My point -- my point is, which is --
CARNEY: Since 1990.
TAPPER: -- which is -- I don't understand this ultimatum that the president brought into the room with him that this needs to extend into 2013.
CARNEY: Because the kind of atmosphere that's created now that has brought us to the brink of doing something that has never been done before is unlikely to improve in an election year. And we are not, as I said before, the kind of country that wants to or should put in doubt in the global economic market -- you know, or raise the question, on a regular basis, whether or not we're going to default on our obligations. I mean, as Caren (Bohan of Reuters) just mentioned, we have rating agencies putting us on warning; I mean, this is not good for our economy. So if we do this regularly, you can bet that it will have a negative impact on our economic prospects, on our growth and our job creation because it creates uncertainty about the economic environment that we're -- that businesses are operating in.
TAPPER: You're comparing it to extending the debt ceiling to 2013. I'm not; I'm comparing it to default. Which is worse? Because the president is saying essentially he would rather have it default than have to vote on this again next year. That doesn't make any sense.
CARNEY: He is saying that leaders should lead, and we have to do the right thing here. You can, as a piece of political analysis, have an opinion about it. The president's position is, this is not what the United States should do --
TAPPER: I’m analyzing your own statements.
CARNEY: -- and he doesn't believe we will do it. And we think -- we think we can get to an agreement that's significant. And remember, this is all because of an arbitrary connection that was established between the amount by which Congress would have to raise the debt ceiling and the amount by which –
TAPPER: And if I was asking questions of Steele or Buck…
CARNEY: -- we should -- I mean, and a completely unrelated and arbitrary, political and essentially meaningless connection between the two.
TAPPER: OK, so that's Boehner's ultimatum, and I'll -- and I'll ask them about that later. But I'm asking you about the president.
CARNEY: So -- but Jake, let me answer the question. We do not think that that is the way that this country should operate. The president's made it very clear.
TAPPER: What the president made clear in the meeting was that he will not --
CARNEY: Both are bad; I can't choose which is worse for you.
TAPPER: Really? They -- it -- you can't. Default might not be as bad as voting on this next year?
CARNEY: Jake, I've answered the question.
TAPPER: No, you guys are painting a very cataclysmic picture
CARNEY: Jake --
TAPPER: -- that I'm not challenging -- on how bad a default would be. I don't understand why that is preferable --
CARNEY: Because we don't have to get there. We're not going to default, Jake. We're not going to default. I think I, in the answer to two previous questions before I got to you, made clear that no one in the room thinks we're going to default and the president and the vice president don't think we're going to default. So it's a hypothetical that we don't even have to entertain.
Incredible. The White House cannot say whether a default on the national debt is worse than the president not getting his way on a preferred, arbitrary timetable -- resulting a politically inconvenient vote during the home stretch of his re-election bed. Who's playing politically-motivated, reckless games with the debt ceiling now? Again, I'll leave you with this quote. From yesterday: "I've reached my limit. This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this," said Mr. Obama.
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