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Team Boehner’s Hypocrisy

Team Boehner’s Hypocrisy

The Speaker’s response epitomized a disease floating mostly around GOP circles as the U.S. careens toward default. John Avlon on the double-standards holding the country hostage.

This is starting to give Kabuki theater a bad name. The competing congressional debt ceiling plans presented at grimly choreographed press conferences. Bipartisan language used to fig leaf nakedly partisan bills. Last night’s dueling primetime speeches by Obama and Boehner, offered as the clock ticks closer to default with no constructive compromise in sight.

Posted ImageThe markets still seem to be in denial about the growing prospect that America might fail to raise the debt ceiling for the first time in our history. They are assuming rationality from an ideology-first crowd in congress. But make no mistake: we are heading into unprecedented territory.

This is a political crisis manifesting itself as a fiscal crisis. Deficit reduction is no longer the real goal. Principled differences have been abandoned. Instead, there is just the struggle to survive politically without taking the nation off a cliff. It is a failure of divided government, and that’s why the two prime time speeches last night offered a preview of campaign 2012.

Standing at the bully pulpit of the East Room, President Obama strained to recapture the centrist credibility he had in campaign ’08, citing ex-presidents from Jefferson to Reagan, casting the debt ceiling debate as between a bipartisan deficit reduction plan and anti-tax absolutists in the House GOP. It was a speech infused with independent voter-pleasing lines like “We can’t allow the American people to become collateral damage to Washington’s political warfare.” The President’s ability to win over converts at this stage of the game is in question.

But just as the weakness of the Republican field makes Obama’s chances for re-election look surprisingly good right now, the president’s speech benefitted by comparison to Speaker Boehner.

Afforded the unusual luxury of equal time, the best that can be said about Boehner’s speech is that it was brief. It did not aim for great themes or grand eloquence. It was composed of talking points stitched together. The danger with poll-tested oration is lines that work in focus groups often fall flat when confronted with facts.

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