In today’s WSJ Karl Rove writes with disdain about the way the Obama White House is framing the coming debt limit fight on its own terms–namely, that any debt increase needs to be “clean,” without GOP budget riders, and that gamesmanship around the vote could spook the markets and wreck the economy. Rove argues that this is misguided, and urges Republicans to come up with a counter-strategy ASAP:
Settling on a fiscally responsible package soon would put Democrats on the defensive. It would define the fight in terms favorable to Republicans and increase tensions inside the Obama administration, which is split into two camps.
The politicos want to use the debt ceiling to strengthen the president’s 2012 re-election. They know a largely compliant White House press corps won’t challenge Mr. Obama when he slams the GOP for being responsible for any economic tremors. The adults in the administration understand the debt ceiling must be passed with deficit and spending caps to reassure markets that the U.S. is serious about putting its fiscal house in order. Unfortunately, the adults are few in number, and the politicos run the show.
Maybe Rove is right, and maybe the markets would prefer fiscal responsibility measures attached to the debt vote; that might reassure an impatient Standard and Poor’s, for instance. It also runs contrary to what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, not exactly a 30-something White House “politico,” has counseled in stark terms.
But whatever the merits of Rove’s argument, isn’t it a little curious for George W. Bush’s chief political operative to be sneering at White House “politicos”? Next thing you know, Donald Rumsfeld will be denouncing the knee-jerk Obama hawks who went to war in Libya without a clear plan…