Major political players, including the two major-party presidential candidates, rarely get asked about the European debt crisis, which is a shame -- the health of our fragile domestic recovery is linked closely with the fate of the Eurozone.
With that in mind, I was glad to see House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) field some questions about the subject today. More importantly, consider what he said in response.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday offered a pessimistic view on the debt crisis in Europe, saying, "I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel." [...]
"The problems in Europe are serious," Boehner replied. "Their recession is affecting our economic growth today, and I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel."
Now, Boehner's larger point was that he wants to see policymakers act on looming tax and spending deadlines before the elections, rather than a six-week crash session in the lame-duck session, which he sees as an insurance policy of sorts against Europe-driven instability. Expediency is hardly an unreasonable goal, though the Speaker may not realize it's his own caucus' intransigence that makes any progress all but impossible.
But take another look at Boehner's thoughts on the relevance of the European crisis: "Their recession is affecting our economic growth today."
Really? That's true, of course, but since when do Republicans admit that? According to the GOP script, President Obama's communist/Kenyan/fascist/vampire anti-business radicalism is responsible for all that ails America's economy. If Europe is undermining U.S. growth, as Boehner believes, then Obama isn't to blame for sluggish growth, at least not entirely.
Maybe Boehner will have to walk this back?
Incidentally, Boehner's right that Europe's crises are affecting our economy, but what he may not realize is that European austerity measures -- the kind of policies Boehner's party intends to impose on Americans -- are making matters worse.
It's a development that Democrats are apparently slowly picking up on.
In American politics, being European is bad again. But these days, President Obama and the Democrats, not the Republicans, are holding up their allies across the Atlantic as the poster children for bad policies.
In a new line of attack, top Democrats are arguing that Mitt Romney and the Republicans, with their focus on spending cuts, are following Europe's austerity-first example, to dismal effect so far: Greece over the edge; Italy, Spain, Portugal on the edge; Britain in recession; and the United States suffering through a needlessly weak recovery because of government cuts.
Former President Bill Clinton offered the clearest version of the case on Monday night, when, introducing Mr. Obama at a fund-raiser in New York, he listed the steps that Mr. Obama had taken to spur the economy, and then asked: "Why aren't things roaring along now? Because Europe is in trouble and because the Republican Congress has adopted the European economic policy."
Mr. Clinton added, "Who would have thought, after years and years, even decades, in which the Republican right attacked 'old Europe,' that they would embrace the economic policies of the euro zone -- austerity and unemployment now at all costs."
Don't expect President Obama to get out in front on this one -- he can't alienate European officials, who he's still trying to convince should move away from austerity -- but Dems are reportedly getting more engaged on the strategy of tying the GOP to the failed European model that the right is eager to bring to our shores.