BOEHNER: RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH!
I can never predict how political speeches are going to be received by the public, but -- apart for the fact that I don't accept the premise that America is just like a family that's been too profligate with the credit card and has to cut spending right now -- I thought that the president's speech explained the situation fairly well and made a sane person's case for not doing things the Republicans' way. It's a speech I would have liked him to make weeks ago.
Boehner's speech, on the other hand, was much snarlier than I expected. I was assuming we'd get at least a little gravitas -- but there's just something about Republicans, or maybe just Republican Speakers of the House who win midterm elections while a Democrat is in the White House, that makes them feel utterly entitled to say, "Hey, you may be the president, but you're the Republicans' bitch now:"
... President Obama came to Congress in January and requested business as usual -- yet another routine increase in the national debt limit -- we in the House said 'not so fast.' Here was the president, asking for the largest debt increase in American history, on the heels of the largest spending binge in American history.
Here's what we got for that spending binge: a massive health care bill that most Americans never asked for. A 'stimulus' bill that was more effective in producing material for late-night comedians than it was in producing jobs. And a national debt that has gotten so out of hand it has sparked a crisis without precedent in my lifetime or yours....
What we told the president in January was this: the American people will not accept an increase in the debt limit without significant spending cuts and reforms.
And over the last six months, we've done our best to convince the president to partner with us....
The sad truth is that the president wanted a blank check six months ago, and he wants a blank check today. That is just not going to happen....
Remember Gingrich essentially declaring himself the de facto president in 1994? That's what this sounded like. And, yeah, both Clinton and Obama came off as guys who could be rolled, but to the public, in this case, it may just seem really disrespectful. Or, at the very least, like just the kind of partisan sniping they say they hate. Certainly the tone was harsh.
But the spin (I didn't watch much post-speech analysis) is probably that Obama was a nasty, partisan bomb-thrower, too, so it's a wash. (I did see Bob Schieffer on CBS briefly arguing that.) So probably these speeches will cancel each other out and won't move any needles, because our political culture probably can't bear a plain assertion that blame falls unequally.