Meet the Press: 'Debt Slayer' Obama Willing to Compromise, GOP Just Saying No

During the roundtable discussion on Sunday's NBC Meet the Press, liberal Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson claimed the fight over the debt ceiling would be a political "winner" for President Obama, prompting host David Gregory to declare that the commander in chief would look like "the debt slayer."

Gregory then turned to chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd and wondered why debt ceiling negotiations broke down. Todd placed the blame squarely on Republicans: "Well, it broke down because Speaker Boehner couldn't get an agreement on taxes. Let's remember, he was not – he did not believe he was politically strong enough in his own caucus to remain leader of the House Republicans....Eric Cantor said no."

Gregory then asserted that Democrats were more than willing to compromise: "And it looks like, if you listen to Secretary Geithner this morning, and look at all the pieces here, he said, 'No, no, we were willing to deal on Medicare. We were willing to deal on Social Security. We were going to stand up to our base and, by the way, do a huge $4 trillion deal.'"

Robinson proclaimed: "Boehner was looking for the deal and Cantor kept saying no, kept saying no, kept saying no. Looks like no has prevailed in the Republican caucus, and what does that mean for Boehner's power?"


Here is a transcript of the July 10 exchange:

11:18AM ET

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GREGORY: Let's come back to the debt fight. Gene, you wrote in your column on Monday about the role that the President is playing as a negotiator, and I'll put a portion of that up on the screen. 'Obama's in-your-face attitude seems to have thrown Republicans off their stride. They thought all they had to do was convince everyone they were crazy enough to force an unthinkable default on the nation's financial obligations. Now they have to wonder if Obama is crazy enough to let them." What does he come into this meeting this afternoon and say?

EUGENE ROBINSON: I think he, he comes in and says to Speaker Boehner, 'Let's, let's think about this again.' I think he, he says what Geithner essentially said is that maybe a big deal is easier to get than a small deal. We're – a small deal is not going to be easy. And he continues to push, because, politically, I think the White House believes this is a winner for them...

GREGORY: Yeah.

ROBINSON: ...to go for the big deal...

GREGORY: The big deal.

ROBINSON: ...to be seen going for the big deal and...

GREGORY: The debt slayer.

ROBINSON: ...then if the...

GREGORY: The President as debt slayer.

ROBINSON: Exactly. And then, if it doesn't happen, well, he tried.

GREGORY: Here-

ROBINSON:  So I think he continues to try.

GREGORY: Here's the interesting thing, though, Chuck. I mean, you get into – this is, this is inside D.C. baseball, right? But that's what you're counted on for here. The President was willing to deal on Medicare because their thinking was that creates space, politically, for the Republicans to do a deal on taxes. So what are the moving pieces there, and why did that break down?

TODD: Well, it broke down because Speaker Boehner couldn't get an agreement on taxes. Let's remember, he was not – he did not believe he was politically strong enough in his own caucus to remain leader of the House Republicans. Not Speaker of the House, leader of House Republicans. So he backed off the deal. He's the one that pushed the President to try to do the bigger deal. He's the one that floated this idea, 'OK, we can – I will try to see if I can get some tax increases, mess around with the tax reform. Let me see if I can do it.' Eric Cantor said no.

GREGORY: Yeah.

TODD: And guess what, it's no.

GREGORY: And it looks like, if you listen to Secretary Geithner this morning, and look at all the pieces here, he said, 'No, no, we were willing to deal on Medicare. We were willing to deal on Social Security. We were going to stand up to our base and, by the way, do a huge $4 trillion deal.' The second Republican has now walked. Cantor and now Boehner. They're getting ready to use this as a stick.

ROBINSON: Uh-huh. Yes. They definitely are. I, I'm fascinated by this Boehner-Cantor relationship, though.

GREGORY:  Yeah.

ROBINSON: This is going to really be something to watch going forward because, you know, Boehner was looking for the deal and Cantor kept saying no, kept saying no, kept saying no. Looks like no has prevailed in the Republican caucus, and what does that mean for Boehner's power? What does that mean for Cantor's power? What does that mean for the future? Very interesting.        

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Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC