No, we haven't seen President Obama this angry — not that I can recall, at least. Mentioning that he was not able to get his phone calls returned from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) this afternoon was the Obama version of blind rage. He has always seemed to take pride in ignoring personal slights. This one he obviously took, well, personally.
The breakdown of talks on raising the debt ceiling saved us from what Obama acknowledged was a pretty lousy deal, from the progressive point of view. But it brings us closer to an unthinkable default, and Obama's frustration was obvious. When he said he was summoning congressional leaders to the White House to tell him how we're going to avoid disaster, you could almost see wisps of steam coming out of his ears.
I have one suggestion for Saturday's meeting: The president shouldn't ask, he should tell.
The theory that this White House has always followed is that legislation has to have its gestation on Capitol Hill. You can argue whether that's the right or wrong approach, as a general rule, but right now we're out of time. If what Obama wants is the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plan, in which the president basically gets to raise the debt ceiling on his own — and take all the political heat — then he should demand it, clearly, with no ambiguity. This exercise has proved that Tea Party Republicans in the House cannot be brought into a compromise deal. The only solution, then, is a deal that leaves them out — that passes the House with Democratic and non-Tea Party votes, and that is bulled through the Senate with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and McConnell joining forces to keep the thing on the rails.
Boehner may say that's impossible. But so far, everything has proved impossible — even compromises that were heavily weighted to the GOP position. At this point, clear and specific demands are in order. With a deadline. It was fine to look for a deal, but that's not what the country needs right now. It needs action.