Blackmailing Obama over the budget

Mitch McConnell has handed the president the weapon he needs to win the battle over federal spending — and America's future

Robert Shrum

The ultimatum has been delivered — and with it, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has delivered the political high ground to President Obama. Now, the president can force a showdown over federal spending, the threatened shutdown of government, and Tea Party demands to prevent an essential increase in the national debt ceiling.

McConnell's misstep was to acknowledge the Republican Party's determination to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. If Obama won’t join the GOP in defacing and degrading these greatest legacies of the New Deal, the New Frontier, and the Great Society, McConnell insisted, then Republicans won’t agree to an increase in the debt limit — a decision that could bust financial markets and send unemployment rates soaring. It would be terra incognita — the strongest economy on earth shredding its own credit and credibility, creating an economic meltdown with fallout that lasts years or decades.

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Robert Shrum has been a senior adviser to the Gore 2000 presidential campaign, the campaign of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and the British Labour Party. In addition to being the chief strategist for the 2004 Kerry-Edwards campaign, Shrum has advised thirty winning U.S. Senate campaigns; eight winning campaigns for governor; mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other major cities; and the Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Shrum's writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The New Republic, Slate, and other publications. The author of No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner (Simon and Schuster), he is currently a Senior Fellow at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.