Anna Sale is the host and managing editor of Death, Sex & Money, WNYC’s interview show about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation.
What We Learned from Obama's Debt Address: He's Digging In and Looking for Back Up
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
A game of chicken. A standoff. Gridlock. Slow-motion collision.
With a week to go, the metaphors are flying as President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner both dug in their heels in nighttime addresses to the American people. They repeated their cases, again, and blamed the other side for standing in the way of a deal, again. And if a new poll is any indication, this approach isn't doing anybody in Washington any favors.
While everyone's gotten covered in mud in this slug fest, President Obama knows he's viewed slightly less badly than Congressional Republicans. In his remarks, Obama blamed Washington culture for the mess, and appealed to the American people to have his back:
The American people may have voted for divided government, but they didn’t vote for a dysfunctional government. So I’m asking you all to make your voice heard. If you want a balanced approach to reducing the deficit, let your member of Congress know. If you believe we can solve this problem through compromise, send that message.
Americans are sick of just about everybody in this debate, Obama empathized, and tried to position himself as the most reasonable in a crowd of unreasonable players. He's held that slight opinion edge over Congressional Republicans throughout the debt ceiling debate, and he continues to hold it according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll out this morning. In a survey conducted just over a week ago, 38 percent of Americans approved of Obama's handling of the federal deficit, which is actually five points higher than in early June, and about ten points higher than Congressional Republicans fare on that question.
But both Obama and Republicans will get a big share of the blame if there's no deal. Voters say they'll blame Republicans over Obama by 42-36 margin, with 19 percent saying both deserve the blame.
That was Speaker Boehner's chief message on Monday night. He repeated his case for keeping taxes low and using this debate as an opportunity to deliver a crushing blow the culture of spending in Washington. Standing in the way, he said, is President Obama.
I want you to know I made a sincere effort to work with the president to identify a path forward that would implement the principles of Cut, Cap, & Balance in a manner that could secure bipartisan support and be signed into law. I gave it my all. Unfortunately, the president would not take yes for an answer. Even when we thought we might be close on an agreement, the president’s demands changed. The president has often said we need a ‘balanced’ approach — which in Washington means: we spend more. . .you pay more. Having run a small business, I know those tax increases will destroy jobs.
As far as priorities go, more Americans feel like Obama is aligned with the interests of "you and your family" than Congressional Republicans—but 12 percent thought neither cared too much for them.
And despite assurances from both of them yesterday, 43 percent believe Obama and Congressional Republicans will not get a debt ceiling deal done by August 2.
That general malaise and lack of hope extends beyond the political culture in Washington. Only 15 percent of those adults surveyed said they feel like they're getting ahead, while 27 percent feel like their family's are falling behind.
VIDEO: President Obama's Address
VIDEO: House Speaker John Boehner's Address