President Barack Obama and Democrats capitulated on the debt ceiling deal, some of the nation’s major editorial pages lamented on Monday, while conservative newspapers cheered the tea party movement that forced liberals to compromise.
Consider the headlines alone: The New York Times: “To Escape Chaos, a Terrible Deal.” The Wall Street Journal: “A Tea Party Triumph.” USA Today: “Debt deal isn’t pretty, but it beats alternative.”
The Times took an extremely harsh tone in its critique of the deal, slamming Obama and congressional for “abandoning” their principles in the name of completing a deal, any deal, before Tuesday’s default deadline.
“There is little to like about the tentative agreement between Congressional leaders and the White House except that it happened at all,” the Times wrote. “The deal would avert a catastrophic government default, immediately and probably through the end of 2012. The rest of it is a nearly complete capitulation to the hostage-taking demands of Republican extremists.”
In suggesting Democrats will allow the Bush tax cuts to expire next year, the Times suggested they copy GOP tactics, or at least their resolve, ahead of next year’s elections.
“President Obama could have been more adamant in dealing with Republicans, perhaps threatening to use constitutional powers to ignore the debt ceiling if Congress abrogated its responsibility to raise it,” the paper wrote. “But this episode demonstrates the effectiveness of extortion. Reasonable people are forced to give in to those willing to endanger the national interest.
The Journal editorial page, which last week slammed tea partiers for holding up the deal proposed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), called the agreement “a victory for the cause of smaller government.”
The paper took another shot at the right wing of the GOP — like the presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) — with a preemptive shot at those who will oppose Sunday’s deal as not conservative enough.
“The same supposedly conservative Republicans and their talk radio minders may denounce this deal as a sellout, but we’ll be charitable and assume they’ve climbed so far out on the political ledge they don’t know how to climb back without admitting they were wrong,” the Journal wrote. “They’re right that this deal doesn’t ‘solve’ our fiscal crisis, but no such deal is possible as long as liberals run the Senate and White House.”
The center-right editorial page at The Washington Post, without taking an identifiable position on the merits of the deal, expressed pessimism that the congressional super-committee and the trigger of across-the-board cuts if it fails to act will be any more successful at deficit reduction than were the White House and congressional negotiators.
“The point of having a trigger is to keep a credible threat: one that both sides can imagine deploying but that both sides desperately want to avoid,” the Post wrote. “This may be the only feasible solution at this late hour. It is not a solution of which anyone involved in this heart-stopping performance ought to be proud.”
USA Today struck a similar but more hopeful chord, suggesting the only thing good about the debt ceiling deal is that one was finally made.
“Assuming this legislation passes in time to avert the crisis, the near miss is good news,” the paper wrote. “Such things have a way of changing attitudes, and an attitude shift is just what the country needs — away from give-me-mine toward a commitment to shared sacrifice. But Congress had better get past its bickering and grasp this last chance to avoid injuring its constituents, or the experience is going to get a whole lot more personal and a whole lot more intense.”
Away from the nation’s media centers, editorial writers focused more on political concerns.
With an agreed-upon deal in place, Obama’s hometown Chicago Tribune proclaimed the best element of the process was bringing the debt debate home to average Americans.
“Perhaps most important for the long run, the American people emerge from this process much more aware that the enormity of their government’s borrowing — another day, another $4 billion — threatens the future prosperity of their children and their nation,” the paper wrote.
And the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that it hopes people remember the tea party tactics that won Republicans this weekend’s political victory.
“They may be feeling their oats today, but the Tea Partiers’ willingness to put the fragile economy at risk to score an ideological point should give pause to Americans who might otherwise be drawn to an agenda of ideological responsibility,” the paper wrote. “The Tea Party gamesmanship over the debt limit was an act of recklessness.”
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