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Analysis: Obama's Leadership Image on the Line in Debt Saga

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: Debt ceiling, budget talks, obama, republicans, economy, politics )

- 2487 days ago -
President Barack Obama's credibility as a leader hangs in the balance along with America's gold-plated credit rating as he strives to break a debt impasse with Republicans and avoid a ruinous default.

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Carrie B (306)
Thursday July 28, 2011, 12:08 am
"President Barack Obama's credibility as a leader hangs in the balance along with America's gold-plated credit rating as he strives to break a debt impasse with Republicans and avoid a ruinous default.

Even if a deal to raise the debt limit emerges ahead of an August 2 deadline -- just six days away -- Obama faces a risk of being perceived as weak if he appears too willing to make concessions.

The political fallout for Obama could be far greater if there is no agreement. A default and government-debt downgrade could send the U.S. economy into another recession, potentially dooming Obama's prospects for re-election in 2012.

That makes the crisis especially difficult for Obama to navigate and gives Republican lawmakers a fair amount of leverage as they push for steep spending cuts in exchange for raising the legal limit on the country's borrowing.

"When you're running for re-election, you want to have a strong leadership image," said Stephen Wayne, a professor of government at Georgetown University. "The longer there is no resolution, the weaker the president looks."

"He's got to do something to get an agreement or to state his position so clearly that he can blame the opposition party for not adhering to it," Wayne added.
Obama could reap political gains if Republicans are perceived as overplaying their hand.
Polls so far show a mixed impact of the crisis on Obama.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday showed a clear majority of Americans -- 56 percent -- back reducing the deficit through both spending cuts and tax increases, in line with Obama's approach.

The poll found that 31 percent of respondents held Republican lawmakers responsible for the impasse, 21 percent blamed Obama and 9 percent blamed Democratic lawmakers.

The standoff seems to have contributed to a steady erosion in Obama's approval ratings in U.S. opinion polls, from above 50 percent after he ordered the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May to current levels near 45 percent. Some recent polls have shown Obama lagging a few points behind an unspecified Republican challenger.


Throughout the saga, Obama has sought to portray himself as the "adult in the room" by emphasizing his willingness to compromise as he and his aides have issued grave warnings about the need to strike a deal to head off an economic catastrophe.

He hopes to draw a contrast with Republican lawmakers, who have been accused by Democrats of intransigence.

A speech Obama delivered in April laying out broad principles for deficit reduction marked his entry into the debt limit negotiations that have now gone down to the wire.

Republicans have faulted him for declining to lay out a detailed plan.

Obama has alternated between keeping a low public profile on the debt issue, as he did when Vice President Joe Biden led a series of meetings with lawmakers in May and June, to his more recent use of the presidential microphone with a series of news conferences and a televised address to Americans on Monday.

White House aides believe the decision last Friday by House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, to walk out of talks with Obama on a far-reaching "grand bargain" on deficit reduction underscored the image of the president as the more reasonable player in the dispute.

But Obama's inability to get a telephone call returned from Boehner last week and his own description of himself as having been "left at the altar" by the speaker might undercut his leadership image if the debt talks fall apart and damage the economy.

Boehner's abandonment of the grand bargain was a huge blow to Obama, whose advisers had hoped a broad deficit deal would have given him a big boost with independent voters crucial to his re-election chances by showing him to be a leader willing to cut spending and get the U.S. fiscal house in order.

With talks focusing over the past several days on a debt limit increase combined with a more modest deficit reduction package, the action has moved to Capitol Hill with the Democratic-led Senate and Republican-led House pushing rival proposals.

The president's address on Monday was aimed at countering the impression that he has been sidelined. White House aides say he has been heavily engaged behind the scenes with lawmakers, working the phones.

"It may be that he feels that if these things need to be resolved on Capitol Hill, that it's best to give them the opportunity to work on them," said Ross Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

"There's not a whole lot of time. That's the problem," Baker added."

(Editing by Will Dunham)

Carrie B (306)
Thursday July 28, 2011, 12:10 am
This is one of many days when I am remembering why I voted for Hilary Clinton in the primary. Obama may have been the only adult in the room during budget talks, but he certainly was not authoritative.

Kit H (173)
Thursday July 28, 2011, 3:48 am
Obama is acting chicken. "He is a pansy!" He had his senate record voting presence.

Obama Is Increasingly Irrelevant to the Debt Ceiling Process

So as Senators and Congressmen negotiate across the Capitol, with the administration trying to elbow its way in, the nation will meet its obligations. And Obama will sign whatever he is presented, lest he be held to account for the havoc that would otherwise ensue. (Count on him to ignore last minute pleas from the nation and MSNBC that he act on his own, citing out of context language of the 14th amendment.)

After the dust has settled, the one constant that will remain is the mounting unemployment rate to which Obama has also paid scant attention and offered no program. At its last count, the number stood at 9.2 percent. Mindful of their own reelection prospects, Congressmen and Senators will be in no hurry to assume joint custody of it with him. While he may not have "broken it" (at least all by himself), he has come to own it.

patricia lasek (317)
Thursday July 28, 2011, 4:08 am
They need to pass a "clean" debt ceiling increase. No addendums at all. Just raise the debt ceiling already!
They only need a one page document. It's been done before.

Carrie B (306)
Thursday July 28, 2011, 6:19 am
Patricia, not just before, but done all the time!

Ellen m (215)
Thursday July 28, 2011, 6:37 am
I sure disagree with that headline, at least as it relates to Obama! While many thought he would cave, I gave (and still do!) him more credit than that. He's the only chance we have right now. If our credit tanks, the only blame lays squarely on the sholders of Boehmer!

Carrie B (306)
Thursday July 28, 2011, 6:43 am
Ellen, not Boehner, but the teabaggers who have no concept of reality. What is even worse, no interest in reality. Bet right now Boehner is wishing he had another job!

Rosie Lopez (73)
Friday July 29, 2011, 3:38 pm
thank you

l L (1)
Friday July 29, 2011, 3:57 pm
B.S- you know, congress and the whitehouse think they are all safe because they think we can blame the other fella. But i kinda feel like they are all pulling the smokescreen over our eyes. Both sides in their own outwardly or sneaky ways are after social securioty etal. All of them put us in their self created dialog to choose our own [poison with the help of media to keep the hype going. Big business I guess.
They forget they are the ones on the tele and on the waves,, hood winking us. People under distress, see their attitutes towards the rest of us.
i often think of Jeffery W. he used to call me delusional for being so believing of this president and government to do right by us. I wanted to believe. Now this set up has been presented to us, to choose. The tea and R party are destroying the homeland and the president is offering the store for raising the debt ceiling--maybe?--.
They argue how boerner is not fairing and obama looks smart as a fox. When the r's conceded to giving the pres latitute, no the president wanted the big deal and pressed the issue. The big deal has people's fates assigned to it. Hail to the ultra rich and corps and the hell with the rest of us.
I care not that the president is protecting his bid for president in 2012. I care not.
Heritage foundation and all the crazies are just that and the pres feeds at that trough. Where does that leave the rest of ? I miss cenk uyger and where is rachel?
The medias blame the tea parties. I blame them but i blame this president and those who allow this to fester in the level of treason it has become.
The president, the justice system and an yother person. It makes it look like, they are all in this together.
The president came out with his speech about the working man and how americans hate washington.
That will not win my vote this time.
He has his chance to prove he is different than george bush; he has picked up where he left off. He is not on our side and those old speeches are not going to get many of us to vote for him again.

. (0)
Friday July 29, 2011, 5:50 pm
I live in the UK, we are, just like the US, very much in debt - to address this our Government has imposed some pretty serious cuts on our public services and has raised some of our taxes by quite a bit; an extra 2.5% on sales tax (across the EU this known as Value Added Tax). In addition the fuel for our vechicles (we call it petrol - others call it gas) is taxed very highly (in the UK a US gallon of petrol costs around $8 US). This makes life pretty difficult for some of us, indeed this winter it has been suggested that some of us will have to choose (between heating our homes or eating - this will follow another huge increase in the price of heating oil and electricity, this is taxed as well). So there is the bad news, I guess the question is what can we do about it?). I think that we can begin (across the world) by making the very rich pay at bit more - if we don't do it world wide then they will simply move their money somewhere else. There isn't a shortage of money, it is simply the fact that less and less people have got more and more of it and they are not sharing it!

l L (1)
Friday July 29, 2011, 11:00 pm
Howard I hear ya. Ever wonder where all that money goes? Why have the money makers chose to starve the nations like this of money? They were evident in the 90's putting different nations willfully into poverty. People were complaining but until this election I didn't understand. And since this president; I had never researched or tried to understand what the heck is going on.
The greater message is they are willfully creating their NWO. I keep going back and forth in denial that it is in play. Just like I do with the american CIA is a contuation of the nazi's.
This recession/depression types are a manmade adventure and can be fixed by putting more than enough money for countries to run themselves. But they are playing this money games where we are the train and they are the conductors of our lives.
My president's feelings are hurt by what I write but life is not just about him. The rest of us matter too.
Things are being done to hurt the rest of us. We can't be silent cause this is our elected president. we need him to use the 14th amendment and stop letting us down.
Howard; I noticed that in egypt during their uprisings they had a system in place where they had an allowance of money the government had cut off and they were complaining and revolting.
I said to myself the water is already being tested around the world. These systems to control people by giving them an allowance thru a bank card. I think things are bad here. What do they have planned for us next?
Everytime we say more money, more jobs; the game players cry the imaginary word-inflation-. It's their game their system. They can make it go anyway they want. It's their game board and their game. They tell whatever line/lie that suits them.

Past Member (0)
Saturday July 30, 2011, 11:50 am
Obama has never shown any leadership on anything, and suggesting he is trying to hold onto credibility implies that he had some

Carrie B (306)
Saturday July 30, 2011, 2:59 pm
Lilith you are repeating yourself.

. (0)
Saturday July 30, 2011, 3:28 pm
Your comments are on target, Carrie, thanks

Marco Galli (71)
Saturday July 30, 2011, 5:08 pm
Apart the credibility of Obama, I believe that investor interest is focused more credibility in the country.
If the U.S. debt was only a American problem I would not worry, but many countries have invested on U.S. stability.
In Europe, excluding Greece and other few examples, the debt of states is low, even Italy's if state debt is high debt of the citizen is nonexistent, but however we make sacrifices of blood and tears to pay off the debt.
Despite the state of the European countries is not under conditions terrible U.S. rating agencies beat up constantly on the European debit, increasing taxes amount for the citizens and for restore the state debts.
Why ratings agencies do not consider never U.S. debt, how will the U.S. to pay the bond yield to maturity, when in August maybe there will not be even money to pay the teachers and public employees.
I do not think the Chinese who have invested billions of dollars in the U.S., will be content with reassurance of the Standard & Poor's or Moody's.
From European do not understand all this reluctance to pay taxes, I thank everyday the Social Democracy of being able to have good hospitals and schools free, not having to do 3 jobs if I have a son who has to go to college or a family member sick and also does not I understand what advantage there is in not paying taxes now and then maybe ending up in poverty in old age because I had to cure me from cancer.

William K (308)
Sunday July 31, 2011, 2:30 pm
I find it wholly irresponsible and unconscionable of the Republicans to try and hold the entire world hostage as a means of leveraging their ideology.
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