Matthew Yglesias:* Obama's 2006 debt ceiling speech:
Barack Obama's 2006 vote against raising the debt ceiling has achieved something like totemic status…. It was a silly thing of him to do. But it's genuinely worth taking the time to read… because it's so silly…. He says that thanks to the Bush tax cuts the deficit is too high and that thanks to Bush's determination to extend the Bush tax cuts, he proposes future deficits that are too high:
The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure… that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries…. And over the next 5 years, between now and 2011, the President’s budget will increase the debt by almost another $3.5 trillion.
Then he sort of drones on… making a bunch of overstated claims… closes with a non-sequitur:
Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that "the buck stops here." Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren…. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.
This is just rank demagoguery. As Obama himself explained yesterday, it's simply not the case that increasing the debt limit causes the United States to owe more money. The gap between revenue and expenditures exists…. Lifting the statutory debt ceiling simply allows that gap to exist without causing secondary and tertiary economic disruptions. All in all, a pretty ridiculous display. But note what Obama doesn't do—attempt to hold the country hostage in order to advance a policy agenda…. Rather than doing the right thing and voting "yes," Obama has decided to make a "no" vote and then deliver a speech denouncing George W. Bush's fiscal policy. But he's not organizing a filibuster. The fact that the bill passed the Senate 52-48 is a huge tell…. Obama didn't demand the partial repeal of the Bush tax cuts as the price for his debt ceiling vote because he didn't demand anything as his price for his debt ceiling vote…. It was just a forum for silly speeches.
It's worth emphasizing that this exact path is very much available to the GOP. They could allow up-or-down floor votes on a clean debt ceiling… and it would pass…. Then Republicans could all give Obama-style speeches wailing and moaning…. That's what Obama did, and that's what the GOP leadership is currently defining as "surrender" to the White House.