Dems' "Tea Party Downgrade" spin is self-defeating

Various Dems, including but not limited to Pres. Obama’s presidential campaign adviser David Axelrod, Sen. John Kerry, and fmr. DNC Chairman Howard Dean, were busy Sunday blaming S&P’s downgrade of America’s credit rating on the Tea Party. It is bad spin on at least two levels.

First, the spin creates mixed messages. To quote Jim Treacher: “Yesterday, the downgrade was fake. Today, the Tea Party caused it. ‘This isn’t happening… and it’s all your fault!'” In particular, it muddles the Obama administration’s official position, which is that S&P is mistaken. If the administration is trying to stave off similar downgrades from other ratings agencies (even if the impact is more limited than many think), having the president’s campaign flack suggesting a real phenomenon is at work is counter-productive.

Second, the left’s focus on S&P’s comments about GOP opposition to higher taxes (and avoidance of S&P’s comments on entitlement reform) sends a toxic subliminal message to voters. Consider this from the S&P explanation:

Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act.

Of course, S&P may not be entirely accurate on this point: Obama blew up a grand bargain with Speaker Boehner that included $800 billion in revenue. But taken on its own terms, S&P’s explanation necessarily assumes not only that the GOP will continue to oppose raising tax rates, but also that the GOP will succeed in doing so. S&P’s analysis implies: (a) the House GOP is unlikely to suffer serious losses in 2012 from their position on the debt ceiling; (b) Pres. Obama may not win re-election in 2012; (c) if Pres. Obama is re-elected, he will likely be beaten a third time on taxes, despite being a lame duck with nothing to lose. These are the narratives being advanced by Democratic spin about a “Tea Party downgrade.”

As the WSJ’s James Taranto quipped: “So the argument for re-election is going to be ‘Don’t blame Obama, he was no match for the Tea Party’?”

Jazz Shaw May 16, 2022 12:41 PM ET