President Barack Obama’s record on the debt crisis hasn’t been a profile in courage. On Monday night, as he spoke from the White House East Room, the president stood exactly where he was at the beginning of debt negotiations: detached, alone, and an outsider.
For those of us who have watched the torturous day-to-day descent of this crisis, the president’s detachment and absence have been obvious. On Monday, Politico’s Glenn Thrush reported: “Obama was barely visible for much of the weekend.”
As the president faced the nation on Monday evening, he knew his economic legacy was on the line. Historians will judge him for his economic stewardship.
The assessment will not be good. Going deep into his presidential term, he presides over a country that suffers from high unemployment, record home foreclosures, and a no-growth economy. But when the most pivotal issue of our decade emerged — a $16.8 trillion debt crisis — where was the “Obama plan”?
The sad truth is there is no Obama plan and there never has been a plan. The president gingerly approached the debt crisis as he has approached other issues: intellectually, coolly, passively, and with great detachment.
What terrifies President Obama now and has animated him in the last week is that he could be the first president to preside over a national default.
Politico’s Thrush identified this key vulnerability on Sunday when he wrote:
Can anyone envision a more devastating line than “Barack Obama, the man who lost America’s AAA credit rating — and brought you 9 percent unemployment”?