Rep. Eric Cantor (R VA) asked and was granted permission to speak at the Debt Ceiling debate organized (there’s that word again) by Barack Obama. The Congressman spoke respectfully at all times and never interrupted the President. But when Cantor said that the two sides remain so far apart at this point that he doubted they could get the $2.5 trillion in cuts (the latest debt increase requested by the administration) by August 2nd, the President lost his cool.
“Ronald Reagan wouldn’t sit here like this”. “Eric, don’t call my bluff. I’m going to the American people with this.” Then Obama pushed back his chair and walked out. If you grew up with siblings you will recognize this as the old “I’m tellin’ !” threat.
That’s one side of the story. Here’s the other. Cantor was harassing the President and interrupted him when he tried to speak. Nancy Pelosi said “The president could not have been more gracious. I have never seen a president spend so much time with the leadership of Congress day in and day out, respectful of their concerns.” Cantor was acting like a cry baby because he was not getting his way.
Let’s be fair. We don’t know what happened in that room; we weren’t there. One thing we do know is that one hope for change was Obama promise to bring unprecedented transparency to government. That promise was a significant factor in gaining favor with swing voters in 2008. What we got was unprecedented concealment.
Previous presidents routinely allowed reporters to attend debates like this. But, much to the consternation of both sides of the press, they were not allowed in the room, not even a lone reporter. Why? Is Obama afraid of truthful reporting? What did he anticipate that he did not want the public to know? Nothing in particular; stealth is just his style.