The Washington Post

White House calls ‘dangerous’ default scenario a ‘Sophie’s Choice’

House Republicans are reportedly drawing inspiration from the movie “The Town” as they try to achieve caucus unity in the high-stakes debt limit debate. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) showed a clip from the flick during a closed-door meeting to rally the troops behind a deficit reduction plan being drafted by Speaker John Boehner (Ohio).

Not to be outdone, White House spokesman Jay Carney offered his own movie metaphor Wednesday for what might happen if the Congress fails to present President Obama with an acceptable compromise deficit reduction and debt ceiling plan by Aug. 2.

“It’s a ‘Sophie’s Choice,’ ” Carney said, referring to the 1982 movie starring Meryl Streep as a mother who must choose which of her two children is to be gassed and which is to live at a Nazi death camp during World War II.

What Carney meant was that if the United States is unable to borrow more money after Aug. 2 and defaults on its credit obligations, Obama will have to choose which of the country’s bills go unpaid.

“Who do you save? Who do you pay?” Carney asked at his daily press briefing. “That’s an impossible situation this country has never faced and should never face if Congress does what it was elected to do.”

Apparently worried that younger reporters in the room might not understand the cultural reference, Carney, 46, briefly waxed poetic about the movie.

In the end, Sophie made her choice, which we won’t spoil for those who haven’t watched the movie. But Carney declined to speculate which programs Obama would prioritize over others in the event of a default.

“This is real, and this is dangerous,” he said. “There’s a reason it hasn’t happened before — because it’s dangerous territory.”

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.

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