As far as I'm concerned, the most sensible idea to come out of this whole debt-ceiling mess so far is from Vermont's independent senator, Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats. Sanders says President Obama is so weak in his dealings with Republicans that he should be forced to face opposition in next year's Democratic primaries.
Sen. Sanders didn't name another candidate or indicate he'd like a different Democratic nominee. But I'd like to suggest one: the candidate the president unfortunately defeated in the 2008 primaries, Hillary Clinton. She's the only other Democrat around who can win nomination and election.
I know Mrs. Clinton has said she has no more interest in the presidency. She's even denied that she's interested in heading the World Bank after she leaves the State Department. And her husband insists that what she really wants to be, above all, is a grandma.
But we Democrats have got to draft her to run against Obama, hoping that maybe if enough of us can persuade her that she's needed to save the country -- and put up enough money for her to win -- she'll change her mind. I know it's a very long shot -- and almost too much to ask of a politician who's gone through years of hell. But the alternatives, four more years of Obama, or one of the Republican lunatics or plutocrats currently in the picture, are simply unacceptable.
It goes without saying that four more years of GOP destruction of our government won't do. Neither will Obama, who has spent the last 2 ½ years in the White House permitting it to continue. He's caved in so often on so many issues that having him in office is little better than having a Republican there. And the continuing poor economy makes his re-election far from certain.
He came in with no leadership experience and promising national unity. A ridiculous idea, considering that Republicans had tried to destroy his last Democratic predecessor. Given her first hand memory of that, Mrs. Clinton would have entered the White House with no such illusions -- but with years of experience as First Lady and senator (and now with crucial foreign policy experience as Secretary of State). She'd have fought the GOP fanatics tooth and nail from the very beginning. Obama did exactly the opposite. He was determined to be reasonable. You can't be reasonable with fanatics.
What this country needed after eight disastrous years of Bush was jobs and a solution to the foreclosure crisis. What Obama gave us (besides a welcome, expanded health care plan that's still to be tested) was a stimulus that wasn't nearly big enough. He didn't fight for more stimulus; a big, much-needed infrastructure jobs program, or any way out of the housing disaster.
Instead, he gave in to Republican craziness, adopting their phony cry that the real economic problems were deficits and debts. Republicans spent eight years accumulating those deficits, and raising the national debt by 86 percent under Bush, without a worry in the world.
But suddenly, when Obama came in, Republicans made debt the nation's Number #1 problem. And Obama bought it. Instead of more government spending to replace the private sector's lack of same, he was almost as enthusiastic about debt reductions as the GOPers. Although, of course, they refused even to consider raising taxes, even on billionaires, as part of the solution. And the aim of their spending cuts, far from his, is "to starve the beast," i.e. destroy the government.
Speaking of destruction, in 2008 American banks came close to destroying the economies of this and other countries. But Obama's administration has not seen fit to punish the bankers criminally for their wrongdoing. Or ended Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, which he had vowed to do but caved on last December. In April, he caved again and agreed to $38 billion in budget cuts to avoid a government shutdown. And now, in another cave, he offered to reduce Social Security benefits, Medicare and Medicaid by $650 billion over 10 years -- including raising the Medicare age from 65 to 67 -- to get the debt ceiling raised.
But even that wasn't enough to satisfy Boehner, who walked away from the talks because Obama wanted to change the 10-year deal by increasing revenues from $800 billion to $1.2 trillion. In doing so, Obama was performing still another cave-in, although this time it was to others than strictly Republicans.
For one thing, the Senate's Gang of Six, three Republicans and three Democrats, came out with a plan that called for $2 trillion in revenue increases, far exceeding anything Obama demanded. For the other, Senate Democrats were furious when they learned of his offers to cut entitlements -- with no immediate provision to raise taxes.
"Many of us were volcanic," protested Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). An angry Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would oppose such an agreement, with no apparent guarantee of increased taxes. As the senators told the Washington Post: "Democrats were winning. Why give up now?" That was last week. But it turns out Obama needn't have given in to the Senate Dems because this week, their volcanic hotspots apparently cooled, along with Sen. Reid's anger. He's now offering a plan that calls for no new revenues.
The president caves to pressure. So far it's mostly been to Republican pressure. Now we Dems need to pressure him with a serious opposition candidate in the primaries who can threaten to beat him, get elected, and fix what's wrong with this country. The only person who can do that is Hillary Clinton. We should try to draft her. If we can't, the way I feel now I'm not voting for Obama. I plan to leave my presidential ballot choice blank. Maryland will have to go Democratic without me.
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