On 360 last night, Anderson Cooper interviewed John Chambers, the S&P executive responsible for the downgrade of US Treasury Bonds:
Among other things, Mr. Chambers said:
I think that there's plenty of blame to go around. This is a problem that's been a long time in the making, well over this administration and the prior administration. It's a matter of the medium- and long-term budget position of the United States that needs to be brought under control, not the immediate fiscal position. It's one that centers on entitlements and it's entitlement reform or having matching revenues to pay for those entitlements that's at the crux of the matter.
COOPER: What could the United States have done to have avoided this?
CHAMBERS: Well, I think it could have done a few things. The first thing it could have done is to have raised the debt ceiling in a timely matter, so that much of this debate had been avoided to begin with, as it had done 60 or 70 times since 1960 without much debate. So that's point number one. And point number two is it could have come up with a fiscal plan similar, for example, to the Bowles-Simpson commission, which was bipartisan. Although it did not have a supermajority vote, it did have a majority vote and came up with a number of sensible recommendations. You could envision other recommendations, but that would have been a start.
DAVID WALKER, FORMER UNITED STATES COMPTROLLER GENERAL: John, thanks for coming on. First, obviously, S&P said back in April that you were looking for something meaningful to happen and up to $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years. That didn't happen.
(NOTE: Whether we supported it or did not, the deal President Obama proposed before Speaker Boehner walked out in a huff was in this ballpark. Just noting for the record.)
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's also important to recognize that Standard & Poor's is not the voice of God here. Standard & Poor's itself had an appalling record during the -- what led to the financial collapse of 2008. They were the ones who were giving clean bill of health to all these investment banks and banks that had invested in these horrible mortgage-backed securities. So the idea that they have perfect insight into who is sound and who is not is simply incorrect. As for what this will mean, I mean, obviously, it will be a political football. I don't think most voters have heard of this issue. I don't think most voters care. Most voters care about what they see in the real world, unemployment, whether houses are selling, whether the economy is moving. I think this is likely to be a big sideshow.
(I think Mr. Toobin's points here are important. I am also skeptical about S&P . . . which, given the importance of what they have to say, makes me . . . well, cynical would be too light a term.)
But then we have this (and, yes, I am quoting a GOP operative):
(Republican strategist Alex Castellanos):
I've written a lot of campaign commercials, but as a political advisor, I wouldn't be writing any tonight. Instead, I would be calling candidates and elected officials that I worked for and I would be telling them, settle down. This is serious. It would be better for you politically and better for the country financially to look like a leader, to reach across the aisle tonight and tomorrow and say, we all know how serious this is. We can do something about it. This is a moment we don't have to pass on to our kids. This is one of those rare moments where what's good for candidates politically is what's good for the country.
(Wish he'd said this while the Bush Administration was busy creating every possible deficit it could, in order to bankrupt the country and make it impossible for our great nation to honor its obligations to its workers, seniors, poor, disabled and others who should and want to be able to participate in this formerly greatest of nations.)
CASTELLANOS: It's a missed opportunity for candidates who do that tonight chance. They have a chance to be big or they have a chance to be small. It's a chance for big leaders to help us deal with the big problems. So the finger pointing is going to lessen them.
Did they listen?
Mitt Romney: America’s creditworthiness just became the latest casualty in President Obama’s failed record of leadership on the economy. Standard & Poor’s rating downgrade is a deeply troubling indicator of our country’s decline under President Obama. His failed policies have led to high unemployment, skyrocketing deficits, and now, the unprecedented loss of our nation’s prized AAA credit rating. Today, President Obama promised that ‘things will get better.’ But it has become increasingly clear that the only way things will get better is with new leadership in the White House.
Jon Huntsman: Out-of-control spending and a lack of leadership in Washington have resulted in President Obama presiding over the first downgrade of the United States credit rating in our history. For far too long we have let reckless government spending go unchecked and the cancerous debt afflicting our nation has spread. We need new leadership in Washington committed to fiscal responsibility, a balanced budget, and job-friendly policies to get America working again.
Michele Bachmann: “Tonight’s decision by S&P to downgrade our credit rating to AA+ is a historically significant and serious event for the United States. The United States has had a AAA credit rating since 1917. That rating has endured the great depression, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the terrorist attacks on 9/11. This President has destroyed the credit rating of the United States through his failed economic policies and his inability to control government spending by raising the debt ceiling.
“We were warned by all of the credit agencies that a failure to deal with our debt would lead to a downgrade in our credit rating, but instead he submitted a budget that had a $1.5 trillion deficit and then requested a $2.4 trillion blank check. President Obama is destroying the foundations of the U.S. economy one beam at a time. I call on the President to seek the immediate resignation of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and to submit a plan with a list of cuts to balance the budget this year, turn our economy around and put Americans back to work."
Newt Gingrich: "The Obama disaster continues. Highest food stamp level and lowest credit rating in history in the same 24 hours."
There was also a statement from Rick Santorum, but, really, who cares?
And then, of course, there was this, published by the Wall Street Journal without any corrective notes:
Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), a tea party favorite, took a harder line, blaming Obama administration policies, from the rescue of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Wall Street to the economic stimulus to this week’s passage of the debt-ceiling deal. To start down a new path, he said, President Barack Obama needs to dismiss Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
“The President should demand that Secretary Geithner resign and immediately replace him with someone who will help Washington focus on balancing our budget and allowing the private sector to create jobs,” he said. “Despite repeated warnings on our unsustainable debt, Secretary Geithner declared in April that the U.S. was at ‘no risk’ of being downgraded. For months he opposed all efforts to reduce the debt in return for a debt ceiling increase. His opposition to serious spending and debt reforms has been reckless and now the American people will pay the price.”
Last time I looked, the Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Wall Street bail-outs were done by the Bush Administration . . . and yet the WSJ published this on their blog as though these false statements were fact.
The GOP may live in an alternative universe, but the universe we live in is this:
The downgrade of US credit today could make it more difficult for people wanting homes to buy them; it will likely raise everyone's interest rates; and, most importantly, it was completely unnecessary.
And GOP: It's yours. Own it.