If you’re keeping score at home, this makes three different answers that The One or his surrogates have given vis-a-vis the position he took on the debt ceiling five years ago. The first was Obama’s Senate floor speech at the time in defense of his no vote, where he fatefully said, “Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.'” You might be hearing that soundbite played in conservative media a time or two over the next few weeks. The second was back in January, when Gibbs replied to a question about O’s 2006 vote by insisting that it was, um, symbolic. He knew that the debt ceiling was going to be raised, so he voted no; had the issue been in doubt, presumably he would have voted yes. So even according to Gibbs, the sonorous bit about leadership and the buck stopping here was basically a lie.
Now comes answer number three, via Jay Carney: Yes, Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling, but he now recognizes that even a protest vote was a mistake given the “Armageddon-like” consequences of a U.S. debt default. Which sounds like … an awfully big mistake for a would-be president to have made. How often do you hear a White House press secretary describe the potential fallout from one of his boss’s own votes as “Armageddon-like”? Can’t wait for the next briefing on Libya, in which Carney repudiates Obama’s 2002 opposition to intervention in the Middle East as “catastrophically naive” or whatever.
I do think it’s cute at the end, though, how he suggests having a clean up-or-down vote on the debt ceiling without making any concessions to the GOP on spending or balancing the budget. Given Boehner’s position vis-a-vis the conservative base, that’s roughly as plausible as the GOP asking Obama to support repealing Medicare with no concessions to the left. Democrats are anteing up in the Great Debt Ceiling Poker Game, in other words, and their ante is … zero. They’d better rethink — quickly — because, at the moment, the GOP’s hand is a lot better than theirs. Exit quotation: “Just 24 percent of self-identified independents believe the cap on government debt should be adjusted upwards, with 71 percent balking at that idea.” (Among Democrats, it’s just 49/45.)