The White House Thinks A Debt Ceiling Vote in an Election Year Is Worse Than Default

by Daniel Foster

Every month or two, ABC’s Jake Tapper is good for completely owning the White House press secretary. Here Jay Carney makes himself an easy target:

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.

Tip to Carney, who doesn’t seem to have really gotten the hang of this job yet: When a reporter asks you repeatedly if national default is preferable to putting the president in an awkward political position in an election year, don’t answer “Both are bad; I can’t choose. . . .”

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