The fourth consecutive day of debt meetings between President Obama and congressional leaders ended with Obama "abruptly walking out of the meeting," according to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. "We are very far apart right now," Cantor told Fox News. "The progress we made seems to have been erased. [Obama] became very agitated and said 'Ronald Reagan wouldn't sit here. You either have to compromise on the dollar figure or the grand bargain.' He said, 'Don't call my bluff. I'm going to the American people on this.'" An aide who witnessed the walkout confirmed Obama's dramatic frustration. "I've reached my limit," said the president. "This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this." To at least one observer, though, the president's performance seemed likely to help, not hurt, his re-election chances:
“Obama lit him up. Cantor sat in stunned silence,” said an official in the meeting. “It was incredible. If the public saw Obama he would win in a landslide.
A senior Democratic source was more measured, telling Fox that the president was actually just shutting down Cantor's "continual interruptions" about making a short-term deal. "Obama was concluding the meeting, giving the closing remarks and talking about meeting tomorrow," the source said. "Cantor interrupted him and raised for the third time doing a short-term, and Obama shut him down. Cantor was playing the role he's been playing throughout this whole thing — being not productive."
One diagnosis of the problem holds that the problem lies with the lack of leadership on the Republican side. Too many cooks — first Boehner, then Cantor, now McConnell — spoil the soup, and there's no clear equivalent leader to Obama on the right.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer had a short but seemingly accurate account of the evening's gathering:
When asked if they had made progress in the last round of negotiations, Hoyer said "no."
Sounds like it went well.
Meanwhile, the looming storm clouds are looking more threatening: The Wall Street Journal reports that, worried a debt-ceiling deal won't be reached soon enough for the U.S. to pay its bills, Moody's and S&P are seriously considering downgrading U.S. government bonds from their Triple-A rating. The ratings agencies' potential actions undermine the argument that the U.S would avoid disaster if it can only make debt payments while missing some of its other bills this August. And they don't care whose fault it is. "[The ratings agencies] care about money, the bonds, and the securities," said Senator Alan Simpson. "They don't give a rat's fanny about who is to blame."