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Tea Party downgrade or Obama downgrade?

(Xinhua)

09:19, August 09, 2011

Standard &Poor's (S&P) downgrade of the U.S. Government's credit rating has created two new phrases: "President Downgrade" and "The Tea Party Downgrade."

The blame war started soon after the downgrade decision was announced.

"Look at the history of this the fact of the matter is that this is essentially a Tea Party downgrade. The Tea Party brought us to the brink of a default," David Axelrod, top political consultant to U.S. President Barack Obama in an appearance on " Face the Nation."

What the White House has been doing is to downgrade the downgrade of the U.S. Government's credit rating as "meaningless" and blaming that if it isn't, it is not their fault, it is the fault of the Tea Party.

S&P's point is that the U.S. Government debt deal was a fleabite compared to the larger problem, not that there was a danger the U.S. would soon default. Their point is that if it takes a crisis and the threat of a government shutdown to get some trims to the projected increase in spending, the U.S. Administration isn't ready to tackle the problem too much drama for too little reform.

The difference between the White House and the Tea Party is that President Obama wanted an unconditional debt increase, more stimulus spending and many establishment Republicans argued against fighting him too hard on the demand, while the conservative Tea Party wanted a spending ceiling.

John Feehery, President of Quinn Gillespie Communications and a frequent commentator on the political landscape, widely quoted in the U.S., wrote in the opinion section of www.thehill.com website that Democrats have concocted a nice little phrase to describe the actions of the Standard &Poor's credit-rating agency, which was used to little effect over the weekend: The Tea Party Downgrade.

"Nice try. That is kind of like blaming the fire department for not putting out the blaze fast enough," wrote Feehery.

"The S&P believes that we spend too much as a nation and that we don't have the political will to stop spending. The Tea Party was formed primarily to send a message to Washington that America needs to stop spending money we don't have," Feehery stressed.

In his opinion, the Tea Party won't get the blame for the debt- rating downgrade. President Obama will get the blame and it will hurt him with the American people in the next election.

Republicans have seized the opportunity to attack President Obama with a 30-second ad: A picture of the president hanging out with his Democratic colleagues fades in and then out. A screenshot fades in: "The first president to ever lose America's triple-A credit rating. Had enough?"

According to Feehery, that is why the spinners are trying to pin the blame on conservative Republicans. But it won't work.

"The president deserves the blame," Feehery wrote.

In his first two years, President Obama let the spending process get out of hand. He signed a stimulus bill that was an economic and political disaster, according to Feehery.

"He pushed hard to pass a multitrillion-dollar healthcare law that we simply can't afford. He then signed an extension of the Bush tax cuts, tax cuts he himself said were fiscally irresponsible," Feehery wrote.

When the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission came up with a series of recommendations to bring the budget closer to balance -- a commission Obama came up with, by the way -- he walked away from its recommendations, Feehery continued.

Instead, Obama proposed a budget that included no new proposals to deal with entitlement spending. His advisers said he didn't want to lead on entitlements because it would just become a political football.

The blame on the Tea Party for the downgrade seems has proved the increasing influence of the Tea Party in American politics. California is traditionally Democratic, but some of the important Tea Party leaders are from California, and national Tea Party leaders in California were thrilled about one by-product of the political bloodbath over raising the federal debt ceiling: The fight showed that after two years of rabble-rousing from outside the Capitol, the Tea Party has real power to shape the debate in Washington. Many Americans are wondering whether the Tea Party can transform its government-shrinking mantra into long-term power.

It is reported that this month, Tea Partiers will storm town hall meetings of Republican and Democratic members of Congress and demand even more cuts. It's the same strategy Tea Party groups used two years ago to protest - and ultimately water down - the health care reform law when they burst on the national scene.

Tea Partiers say the debt deal didn't cut enough federal spending, was crafted behind closed doors, and assigned responsibility for further cuts to a small, joint committee of Congress.

"They haven't been able to get the government turned around, but this is a fundamental switch in how they're talking about cutting government and not growing it," said Sal Russo, a longtime Sacramento GOP operative who is now the chief strategist for the Tea Party Express.

Support to the Tea Party is on the increase. 20 percent of GOP Tea Party supporters contacted an elected official about the federal budget deficit in the past month, compared with just 5 percent of Republicans who don't agree with the Tea Party, according to a survey released recently by the Pew Research Center.

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