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Congressman John Campbell

Government Shutdown Day 9

Government Shutdown Day 9: “Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here’. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.”

That sounds like something I would say, doesn’t it? But, I didn’t say it. Barack Obama said it on the Senate floor on March 16, 2006 just before he voted against a “clean” debt limit increase, which barely passed the Senate by a 52-48 vote. The quote above is from the last paragraph of a roughly two page speech that you can find in its entirety linked HERE.

Now, I understand that people can change their minds. In fact, I have often said that there is no shame in a politician who has the courage to change an opinion after being presented with facts, circumstances and arguments that warrant such a change. You really don’t want to elect someone who will never change their mind on anything no matter how much changes around them. So, I accept that the president has a different view about the debt limit now than he did 7 years ago.

But, it is one thing to change your mind. It is entirely another to excoriate, with numerous epithets, those who take the same position you recently had and vigorously defended. There is no intellectual honesty in that. The president was not asked about this speech in yesterday’s “news conference” during which the questions were carefully chosen and pre-screened so as not to disturb Mr. Obama’s message. But, he has been asked about it before. His main excuse is that his view of the matter as president is different than it was as a senator. OK. Let’s accept that statement. Are all of the current senators irresponsible for having the same view of the same issue from the same position as he did?

Interestingly, in an earlier paragraph in this speech, then Senator Obama says, “My friend, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee likes to remind us that it took 42 presidents 224 years to run up only $1 trillion in foreign-owned debt. This administration did more than that in just 5 years.” Obama is obviously referring to President Bush here. But now, in five years of his own presidency, he has racked up $6.1 trillion of new debt. And, roughly half of our total U.S. debt is now foreign-owned. So, one can easily argue that the situation is much worse now than when Obama gave that speech and that his 2006 words are truer today than ever before.

Look, there’s no question that Republicans and Democrats disagree on a way forward here. We have always disagreed. That’s democracy. Those senators and congressmen who agree with Barack Obama’s 2006 position are not “hostage takers” or “ransom” demanders or anything else. They have a view that is widely-held and reasonable, and they want to negotiate a solution so that we can avoid the pitfalls that Obama described back then. But, present-day Barack Obama acts as though trying to reform spending as part of raising the debt limit is the worst thing anyone could ever do.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed this morning, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) makes a number of suggestions to get bipartisan support for a plan to raise the debt limit, while also reducing the growth rate of that debt. You can read his piece HERE. This op-ed displays reason, leadership and compromise. It is far from what Paul Ryan would want in a perfect world, but it is a step in the right direction and one that uses a number of ideas that were either proposed by this president or have wide bipartisan support.

But, this president at the moment won’t even support his own proposed solutions. The height of irresponsibility is to refuse to even negotiate with people who are simply saying the same things you once said with great vigor and passion. We will go nowhere in this crisis or as a nation with “leadership” like that. The president needs to talk or at least allow others to talk without the daily press conferences bashing anyone who proposes compromise.

Until tomorrow, drive fast and live free.

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