Rep. Cantor Wrap-Up for Now

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Following two previous items on his role as the man who is happy to blow up the debt talks rather than compromise with a Democratic President or even his own party's Speaker, these final (I hope) responses about "young gun" Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia.

- Several readers wrote in to complain about an earlier comment from a reader in Georgia, who said that Cantor's motive in his obstructionism was to "topple John Boehner and become the first Jewish speaker of the House." Of course if Cantor became Speaker he would be the first Jewish one -- as Nancy Pelosi was the first female Speaker, Harry Reid is the first Mormon Senate Majority leader, Barack Obama is the first non-white President, Joe Lieberman was the first Jewish national-ticket nominee, and so on. The firstness mattered, in different degrees, in each of these cases, and it would with Cantor as well. But in the current budget drama, the relevant point is that Cantor wants to displace Boehner and become Speaker, period. So we should leave it at that.

- Pat Lang, of the Sic Semper Tyrannis blog, argues that Cantor is a perfect product of the gerrymandered districting system in modern politics. That is, according to Lang, Cantor is far more hard-line than his district as a whole. But because a Democrat would be anathema in that district, Cantor is safe as long as he has the party structure behind him:

>>The district is 80% white.  Incomes are modest.... Typically, they live in small, well kept houses sited for a view of the countryside.  The houses average around $130,000 in price....

How does Eric Cantor fit into this?  Is this story altogether about a Richmond machine politician holding office because the voters can't accept the idea of voting for a Democrat?  Perhaps it is.

Cantor is now engaged in an attempt to unseat John Boehner from his place as Speaker of the House of Representatives.  He is doing this by a maximum display of obstructionism in the process of reaching an agreement on revenues and spending....

Is that what the people of the Seventh District want in their representative?  We Virginians have a hard earned reputation for moderation, consideration for others and common sense.  We do not elect extremists or people like Pat Robertson's candidates to major public office.  Is the game that Cantor is playing compatible with that tradition? Is not the greater good the principle that should be followed in this crisis?

I suppose that the game is rigged in the Virginia Republican Party so that Cantor is assured of the nomination for this "Safe Seat."<<

- Many people wrote in with comparisons worse than Eddie Haskell. For the record.

- After the jump, a long message from a reader who sees signs of hope in the budget standoff, in Obama's eagerness (as a Democrat) to propose budget cuts even as the economy heads back into recession, even in the recent news that the Administration is cutting back on various clean-energy projects. I am not convinced, but because you probably have not seen this case made very often, I offer it for consideration.

Reader DM writes:

>>I've lost my sense of despair about Obama and the debt/deficit, social security-medicare discussions, because I think I know what he's doing.  When he first entered office, one of the things he stated as a specific goal was to solve the long-term structural deficit problem he inherited. His inaugural address included admonitions that we had to get serious, that we had to step up, and that people, all people, had to sacrifice, to fix what was broken; and it also included strong chords of hope that America had what it takes to fix it.

I'm realizing that while I've gotten lost in the daily drubbery of whether tax cuts stimulate the economy, whether business confidence is a nonsequitor, and whether Eric Cantor is a weasel, Obama has remained focused on his goal of forcing our government to deal with the structural deficits that he inherited. My newfound optimism comes from emanations in his press conference comments which indicated that the benefit cuts and cost cuts would happen in out-years. I don't think he's talking about cuts in the next two or three years, which would have a terrible effect on our economy. And he's including payroll tax cuts and unemployment extensions which are stimulative.

Look- he first jumped on Republican legislation to set up a pre-emptive deficit commission, and the Republicans ran away. He then set up his own deficit commission, and all of Congress ran away.  And now he has taken the Republican stupid-assed, testosterone addled attempt to hold the debt ceiling hostage, and has judo-thrown them into forcing a discussion of the very problem that they've been purportedly complaining about.  He is using their own two-faced complaints about the deficit (they aren't interested in the deficit; they are interested in undoing the New Deal, which are two very different things and he's called their bluff and making them look very, very stupid), and presenting them with a very sound, very practical, very compromised, totally solid proposal to deal with the long-term structural deficit, which any Republican four years ago would have leapt at, and which contains the very broad-based sacrifices that he promised in his inaugural address.

This is Obama accomplishing one of his principal campaign goals; because politically he can't do anything to stimulate the economy, or, germane to your Mountaineer post, can't commit the government to long-term strategic investment in carbon capture and the global environment, until he gets the structural deficit under control.  If he succeeds in his big picture deficit plan, he'll go into 2012 having tamed the long term deficit.  He'll be in a position to lambast the Republicans and hopefully, gain more control of Congress, and, when he's reelected, he'll have a powerful mandate to pursue his more adventuresome and long-term beneficial programs. It'll take a few more years, but he's  a long-term strategic thinker, and I think he'll get us there. The Republicans look like a lot of power-addled men who are really out of touch with the electorate.

I'm now very optimistic; and, particularly if he succeeds, then with his 2nd term programs, perhaps the economy will recover to the extent that he can re-instate the things he cut before such time as the cuts actually take effect. Because, as we all know, with the long-term structural deficit fixed, if the economy were back to the size it was before 2007, we could have our cake and be eating it too.  You go, Barack. Sir.

PS:  And won't things be looking very different after 2014 when we will all have affordable health insurance. God knows I'm having to put off a lot of things because I can't afford to deal with them now....

It is indeed pretty to think so. And perhaps this will turn out to be true.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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