Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Divide and Conquer

Fred Barnes, writing about the debt ceiling negotiations, is not complimentary to the President. (But he does, in the process, pull off the almost unthinkable task of making Joe Biden seem like an adult.) What interests me more, however, is the description of the vilification of Eric Cantor.

Divide and Conquer
The Obama presidency was three days old when the first Obama-Cantor run-in occurred. When Cantor raised a question about a tax credit, Obama declined to argue the merits. “I won,” he said. “So I think on that one, I trump you.” A few weeks later, at a White House summit on entitlement reform, he characterized Cantor as an obstructionist. Obama added, “I’m going to keep on talking to Eric Cantor. Someday, sooner or later, he’s going to say, ‘Boy, Obama had a good idea.’ ”

That day hasn’t arrived. In the White House deliberations, House Speaker John Boehner has deferred to Cantor, just as McConnell has to Kyl. Cantor has argued relentlessly for spending cuts and against raising taxes. When he brought up the possibility of an abbreviated extension of the debt limit last week, the president answered with a lecture. “Don’t call my bluff,” he said. “I am not afraid to veto and I will take it to the American people. .  .  . This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this.”

Even before this clash, the White House had made Cantor its villain-of-the-moment. Democrats and the press joined in the Cantor-bashing. The media were quickly brimming with leaks from the talks aimed at putting Cantor in an unfavorable light and causing friction between him and Boehner. In a Senate speech, Reid said Cantor “shouldn’t even be at the table.” Democratic senator Chuck Schumer of New York also chimed in. The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee sent out a fundraising letter attacking Cantor.

The pillorying of Cantor could have been spontaneous, but Republicans doubt it. Obama grew up in the politics of Chicago, an Illinois Republican noted. “The president views Eric as a greater threat to him than Boehner,” the Republican told me. The treatment of Cantor is “Chicago-style politics​—​destroy him.”

Cantor has survived and emerged safe, sound, and a hero to conservatives and the class of House Republicans elected last year. And Boehner isn’t going to part ways with Cantor. He remembers Obama’s attempt last year to make him the chief villain in Washington. It didn’t work.
Here's the amusing thing. All of a sudden, the President and the vocal Senators all go after Cantor, the media joins in, and I start seeing Facebook posts, with no apparent news hook, no linked stories, calling Cantor a cry-baby and obstructionist. And I didn't know where that came from.

And now I do...

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