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June 29th, 2011
05:30 PM ET

Gergen: Will Obama's barbs help or hurt debt talks?

Editor's note: David Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN and has been an adviser to four presidents. He is professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) - "When they won't see the light," goes the old saying, "make 'em feel the heat." That was the strategy President Obama employed today in his press conference as he skewered Republicans over deficit negotiations. But where will it lead?

The president likely scored political points with two arguments. First, he skillfully made the case that in refusing to end tax breaks for oil companies, millionaires, and CEOs on corporate jets, Republicans are taking money away from hard-pressed Americans who need help. Who would want to do that?

After the conference went on so long that he seemed bored, Obama came alive with a question from CNN's Jessica Yellin about the debt ceiling. Speaking with exasperation, Obama argued that the debt ceiling is not some abstraction but "a jobs issue." Most analysts have talked about the debt ceiling in financial terms; Obama wisely tied it to jobs.

Repeatedly during the 70 minutes, Obama took snide jabs and belittled Republicans. He surely infuriated many of them. They won't appreciate being told they are not as responsible as his young daughters doing their homework. They especially won't like him saying they have been going home too much, and should stay in town to work on the deficits.

Who is he to take that poke, they will ask? Only a few days ago, a conservative columnist argued that Obama himself had gone to nine fundraisers in the previous two weeks while spending only an hour and a half with his Treasury secretary on the economy.

Such personal slights will only prompt Republicans in Congress to dig in their heels. They will insist - with justification - that mammoth deficits are due in large measure to a government that spends nearly a quarter of the GDP, the highest levels since World War II. Their voters have also told them they don't want any more tax increases. Republicans on the Hill will be more alienated from the White House after today's press conference.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Opinion • President Barack Obama
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. A. Darton

    The Republicans are sabotaging this economy. That is what I truly believe. These guys like Mitch Mcconell raised the debt ceiling seven times when Bush was in office. Today maybe this President got fed up. The President, the Democrats were willing to make cuts to things they cared about, but the Republicans didn't want to give on anything. They want it all their way or nothing at all. They want the poor and middle class to do the sacrificing, while the rich sacrifice nothing. How is that fair. And Mr. Gergen you need to get real, you talk about the President going out of town on fundraising, I am willing to bet if Boehner or Mcconnel were to say to the President we want to sit down and get this thing taken care of, the President would cancel any fundraising trip he had. As I said before I believe the Republhcans are sabotaging this economy in hopes of regaining the White House back.

    June 29, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  2. Patty

    We all know how the Republicans have treated our president, they have shown their distain and disrespect. They have made racial remarks full of hate and bigotry. So, its about time Obama gave some back.

    Yes they should going home or to E street ,and get to work! We all know they only work 3 to 3 1/2 days a week. As for the Presidents fundraising let's look at Bush and before Bush they all went on the campaigh (oops) trail and had many fundraisers.

    The GOP was against Obama from day 1 and Obama never called them on it so now is the time for Obama to step up and get in their faces.

    Anderson U should be one of the CNN heros. Keep them Honest U speak for many of us.

    Thank U, Pat from Boca Raton, Florida

    June 29, 2011 at 11:20 pm |