The Corner

Obama’s Towering Inferno

This is a make-or-break week for me with my own deadline — hence the relative radio silence from me around here. I’ve been trying very hard to reserve a few brain cells on the side to follow the debt-ceiling stuff as I wade through more obscure research. Yesterday, I took time out to watch the Jay Carney grilling discussed in the Corner yesterday. I think it may, in a small way, be a watershed moment. No, not for the country. But for the WH press corps. Carney seemed to be providing a real “Hey I guess you’ve just figured out we’re full of shi…nola” moment.

It is an amazing thing that the press corps has taken this long to really pin the White House down on the simple fact that Obama is the one playing political games here, creating rules for others to follow while not following them himself.  The public explanation for why he doesn’t want to put forward a plan of his own makes as much sense to me as the Korean-language instructions for a photocopy machine.  All I know is that the White House says it doesn’t want to release a plan because it will be held accountable for having a plan, but no one should criticize the White House for not having a plan because they actually offered one verbally that was full of “specifics” nobody will specify and the Republicans are in the dark about. 

Oh, and even though the president insists that if we don’t raise the debt ceiling on August 2 — cats will sleep with dogs, disco will come back, Carrot Top will move into the apartment over your garage, the Chinese will put saran wrap over our toilet bowls — he insists that he will veto any plan he doesn’t like should it actually pass Congress. Of course, saying he will veto a plan makes it less likely to pass Congress and hence prevent Götterdämmerung. So there’s that.

Meanwhile, Obama wants Americans to call Congress to express their support not for an actual approach but for some gauzy, poll-tested, bromides about “balance” and “fairness” and whatnot. Wasn’t this the guy who was supposed to be the next Lincoln? Did I miss where Lincoln offered to settle the issue of slavery by having Americans send vaguely written letters to Congress? Did the Gettysburg Address end with the rail-splitter asking for a show of hands?

Imagine you’re in a burning office building. Obama’s plan for getting out alive: “Okay, you guys break up into different groups and come up with a series of proposals about how we get out of the building. I will then negotiate with each of you separately and then together, and then separately. Then I’ll get on Skype and tell the world what I think of your respective plans and criticize you for their lack of seriousness. I will insist that we have balanced approach of applying both water to the fire and opening the windows, which some say will only provide more oxygen for the flames. But my base says window-opening is essential. Oh and I will blame all of the gasoline I threw around on the lower floors of this building on the guy who moved out two years ago. And I will veto any plan that requires we have a new plan should we get stuck on another floor. And, did I mention this mess was created by the former tenant and….ahhh what’s that smell?

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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