The Washington Post

Obama and Boehner take on Washington

The president, in his address to the nation from the East Room of the White House, warned of “a deep economic crisis, this one caused almost entirely by Washington.”

The speaker, in his response, complained that “in Washington, more spending and more debt is business as usual. Well, I’ve got news for Washington: Those days are over.”

Obama said Americans are “fed up with a town where compromise has become a dirty word.”

Boehner complained about “phony accounting and Washington gimmicks.”

There is something rich about the president of the United States and the speaker of the House pretending that they are somehow not part of Washington. If these two aren’t Washington, what is? The International Spy Museum? Ben’s Chili Bowl? Wolf Blitzer?

Actually, the ones really bollixing up the debt-limit talks are the newest arrivals in town, the freshmen Republicans who have handcuffed Boehner and prevented him from striking any sort of deal with Obama. The president and speaker shouldn’t be blaming Washington; they should be blaming Utah (which sent us Sen. Mike Lee) or Florida (which gave us Rep. Allen West).

But Boehner and Obama won’t get far campaigning against Salt Lake City. And they can’t wring much more out of their old talking points. (Obama revived his crusade against corporate jet owners, oil companies and hedge fund managers, while Boehner attempted to argue that five Democratic votes for his “Cut, Cap and Balance” bill made it a “bipartisan.”)

With polls showing that four out of five Americans are displeased with the federal government, campaigning against Washington is a no-brainer. Obama presented himself as the protector of average Americans, so they don’t “become collateral damage to Washington’s political warfare.”

Americans see “the same partisan three-ring circus here in Washington,” Obama-the-outsider said. “They see leaders who can’t seem to come together and do what it takes,” he said – as if he held no position of authority in this town.

Boehner then said that, when he came to Washington, “I was amazed at how different Washington, DC, operated than every other business in America.” He didn’t mention that he arrived in Washington 21 years ago.

Sorry, gents, but the president and the speaker don’t get to campaign against Washington. You are Washington.

Dana Milbank writes about political theater in the nation’s capital. He joined the Post as a political reporter in 2000.


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