The Corner

Krauthammer’s Take

From Tuesday night’s Fox News All-Stars.

On the leverage President Obama wields at this point in the debt ceiling negotiations:

But that’s because the president holds the upper hand. He holds it for two reasons.

He controls who’ll get the checks on August 3 and who won’t. … If he wants to threaten Social Security, he can do that. Whether he has to actually withhold those checks or not is a moot point. As long as he threatens it, it will scare the hell out of any Republican anyway.

Second, on the issue of the public relations, I think Obama scored a coup on the weekend where the press completely swallowed the White House line that the president is open to entitlement cuts and therefore the onus of any shutdown will be on Republicans who are insisting on no taxes.

In fact, the president has not offered — ever — a structural change in any of the entitlements. He pretends he does, the press is giving him a pass, and he’s winning. In that case, I think [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell at least is looking for a way out.

On whether House Republicans have enough power to force a politically successful outcome:

I think what we’re losing sight of here is in the end, all this is about who gets the blame. It’s like with Gingrich and Clinton. … Gingrich attempted to govern when the Republicans had [control of] two houses of Congress in the absence of the presidency and were defeated. And now the idea is that Republicans are going to govern and impose all the cuts holding only the House? It’s impossible.

And if they lose the battle here — the public relations battle — it can be like ‘96 all over again. They’re going to lose the presidency. If they want real change, they’re going to have to elect a Republican.

And that, I think, is what McConnell has in the back of his mind. If anything happens here [because of the debt limit crisis] — if there’s a disruption in the markets and the economy — and the economy is lousy next year, who gets the blame? It should be Obama. He owns the economy. But he won’t [get the blame] if Republicans are implicated in a collapse as a result of a non-raising of the debt ceiling.

NRO Staff — Members of the National Review Online editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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