With memories of last year's brutal debt-ceiling crisis very much on his mind, President Obama said last week, "We can't afford to go there again." He added, "The only thing the debt ceiling is good as a weapon for is destroying your credit rating.... I will not play that game."
This morning on Fox News, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) responded, "Yes, we will play that game."
For those who can't watch clips online, Graham's on-air comments about the "rude awakening" awaiting the White House were pretty remarkable.
"In February or March you have to raise the debt ceiling. And I can tell you this, there is a hardening on the Republican side. We're not going to raise the debt ceiling. We're not going to let Obama borrow any more money or any American Congress borrow any more money until we fix this country from becoming Greece. And that requires significant entitlement reform to save Social Security and Medicare from bankruptcy. Social Security is going bankrupt in about 20, 25 years. Medicare is going bankrupt in 15 or 20 years. [...]
"Yes, we will play that game, Mr. President, because it's not a game. The game you're playing is small ball. You're talking about raising rates on the top 2% that would run the government for 11 days. You just got re-elected. How about doing something big that's not liberal? How about doing something big that really is bipartisan? Every big idea he has is a liberal idea that drowns us in debt. How about manning up here, Mr. President and use your mandate to bring this country together to stop us from becoming Greece."
It's rare for a prominent public official to put this much nonsense into a 90-second television appearance. Graham's comments make absolutely no sense, and his threat to hurt the nation on purpose is, for lack of a better word, nuts.
"We're not going to let Obama borrow any more money"? Actually, as Graham should know, raising the debt ceiling is about paying the bills for spending that's already happened.
"Social Security and Medicare" are going bankrupt? No, actually they're not.
The United States is at risk of "becoming Greece"? That's just plainly stupid.
Clinton-era rates on income above $250,000 "would run the government for 11 days"? No, it'd generate nearly $1 trillion in revenue over the next decade, which would help reduce the debt built up by the policies Lindsey Graham supported -- tax breaks for millionaires, two wars, Medicare expansion, and a Wall Street bailout, all of which was added to the national credit card without a moment's thought.
Obama needs to do something that "really is bipartisan"? Every major policy proposal of the last four years -- health care, Recovery Act, American Jobs Act, Wall Street reform, etc. -- included provisions that have traditionally enjoyed support from both parties. The radicalization of the Republican Party isn't the president's fault.
"How about manning up here"? There's nothing "manly" about hurting seniors while protecting millionaires at all costs.
But even looking past all of that, the eight words to remember here are these: "We're not going to raise the debt ceiling." In other words, according to Lindsey Graham, Republicans intend to hurt Americans on purpose. They will, quite deliberately, hold the global economy and the full faith and credit of the United States hostage -- again -- until the president agrees to take benefits away from senior citizens.
Why this isn't a shocking national scandal is an ongoing mystery.
For what it's worth -- and to Lindsey Graham, it's probably not worth much -- American business leaders, investors, and financial sector are siding with Obama when it comes to the debt ceiling. In other words, "job creators" think Graham and his Republican allies are damaging the country with their antics, which have no precedent in American history.
That generally means something on the right, but for now, that's no longer the case.
As for the White House, it seems the principle should be repeated frequently: the president will not negotiate with those who would deliberately harm Americans.