In Debt Speech, Obama Quotes Reagan, Forgets to Quote Himself


In a speech about the debt deal negotiations tonight, President Obama warned that "we can't allow the American people to become collateral damage" to Washington's "political warfare" and proposed a deficit cutting plan consisting of both tax hikes and spending cuts. To bolster his position, he offered up the following quote from "a predecessor" of his:

"Would you rather reduce deficits and interest rates by raising revenue from those who are not now paying their fair share, or would you rather accept larger budget deficits, higher interest rates, and higher unemployment?  And I think I know your answer."

Only after reading the entire quote did Obama reveal its original speaker: Republican President Ronald Reagan—the not-so-subtle implication being that Reagan, a Republican icon, would've been on Obama's side in the debt deal debate. 

But as long as we're digging through the history books, it's worth noting that Obama might not always have been on the side he's currently taking in the debt debate. Obama started tonight's speech by noting that another predecessor of his, President George W. Bush, is responsible for a substantial portion of the national debt. This is true. And what did Obama, as Senator, say when Bush wanted to raise the debt limit? Here's ABC News with the relevant quote:

"The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure," he said. "It is a sign that the U.S. Government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. … 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. America has a debt and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America's debt limit."

Obama followed these remarks by voting against the hike. 

Eventually, the current federal debt limit will probably end up being raised; every budget proposal—even the Republican budget plan drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan—requires it. But as the debate over how to do so proceeds, it's worth remembering that the president, despite tonight's warnings, is no stranger to debt limit-driven "political warfare," and, in previous skirmishes, has voluntarily fired a shot or two himself.