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In Obama speech and John Boehner reply, political jockeying on debt ceiling

The Obama speech Monday night and the subsequent address by Speaker John Boehner were mainly about scoring political points in the bitter fight over raising the national debt ceiling.

President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 25, on the approaching debt limit deadline.

Jim Watson/AP

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The dueling speeches delivered to the nation Monday night by President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner had nothing to do with resolving the political impasse over raising the federal debt ceiling and everything to do with posturing and point-scoring.

For Mr. Obama, who has now been cut out of congressional negotiations, the prime-time address was a direct appeal to the American people to weigh in on the side of a “balanced approach” (spending cuts and increased revenue) and “compromise” in deficit reduction. He placed the blame for the impasse squarely on the shoulders of Republican House members, who will vote to prevent default only if their “deep, spending-cuts-only” plan is implemented, he said.

Then the president asked supporters to register their dismay with Congress.

“The American people may have voted for divided government, but they didn’t vote for a dysfunctional government,” Obama said. “So I’m asking you all to make your voice heard. If you want a balanced approach to reducing the deficit, let your member of Congress know.”

Soon, the websites of congressional leaders and other member and committee sites went down. The cause has yet to be determined, but if the flood of Web traffic is found to favor mostly Obama, then score one for the presidential bully pulpit.

The only problem is that Obama’s vision of a grand bargain – one that would marry big spending cuts with higher tax revenues – is no longer on the table. Even if there were a chance it could come back, there’s hardly time to get it through Congress before Aug. 2, when the US government risks beginning to go into default without new borrowing authority.

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