Sunday, July 10, 2011

Camp David to be the site of another historic deal

Camp David, Maryland – This presidential retreat high atop a mountain ridge near the Mason-Dixon Line is the site of many historic brokered deals, compromises and conditions.

Here, post-war maps on a radically altered globe were re-drawn under the Marshall Plan, the NATO and United Nations treaties. The cold war was carved in stone, the die was cast, and the world lived with it for the next 40 years.

Old time farmers in nearby Hagerstown told tales of a fleet of black limousines stopping on a country road and a patrician prep school-Ivy League voice emerging from the back seat, shouting to a man plowing his corn for directions to Fort Richey on the twisting rural roads. As it turned out, President Roosevelt had gotten himself lost in the morning fog, long before the advent of Marine One, the presidential helicopter.

Here at Camp David, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin went at it hammer and tongs, then relented to strike a bargain called the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Accords, a deal proudly announced in the Rose Garden by President Jimmy Carter. It held up for decades, allowing Israeli expansion under a Pax Americana that also allowed moderate Islamic kingdoms, principalities and republics to grow rich marketing petroleum to western nations, until the Arab Spring of the Muslim Brotherhood sent it crashing down and upset the balance of power between Israel and moderate Arab states that previously held more radical Islamic influences at bay.

Today, it's the place where warring factions will again come to the peace tables, isolated in cottages on the grounds, the President and his advisors traveling between them offering olive branches and arrows, as the case may be.

But the major news has been made.

Conservatives have finally forced the liberal faction of the national Congressional leadership to come to heel and confront the problems of massive inflation fueled by runaway debt and profligate government spending.

So many turning points mark the way it was done – chief among them the national decision at the polls of November, 2010 - but certainly one of the biggest occurred just last week in a high-level meeting at the White House.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, a former chief of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, gave a presentation in no nonsense terms of exactly what would happen to the economy, both national and worldwide, if America's leadership allows the national debt financed by the government's full faith and credit through Treasury bonds, to go into default.

It's not a pretty picture.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, now Minority Leader, spoke up and asked why they couldn't just sever the debt ceiling from the effort to make ends meet, cut spending, and go on from here.

The President is said to have politely informed her that ship sailed many months ago. The time for that proposal is long gone.

She still didn't get it. Why not just vote to raise the debt ceiling and have done with it?

No one spoke for a moment, and the moment passed, according to informed sources.

But the original plan between President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner was for a $4 trillion spending cut over 10 years, something that fell to pieces as soon as the newly elected Republican majority in the House saw it.

No new taxes. No way. No how.

No other way to pay for it.

Seven of the House and Senate's top leaders will return to the tables today with a new deal - $2 trillion in spending cuts, something Mr. Boehner described in this way.

“Despite good-faith efforts to find common ground, the White House will not pursue a bigger debt reduction agreement without tax hikes.”

The compromise selected was worked out in Vice President Joe Biden's deficit reduction negotiations, a plan whereby both sides get at least part of what they want.

They can raise the debt ceiling without a clean vote, yeah or nay.

There are conditions, and those conditions are attractive to conservative voters.

There will be no new taxes, but at the same time, there will be no cuts to prized liberal programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and disability.

Though Mr. Obama and top aides insist a more ambitious plan could have been worked out if both sides had been willing to face some politically painful choices, Mr. Boehner said, “I believe the best approach may be to focus on producing a smaller measure, based on the cuts identified in the Biden-led negotiations, that still meet our call for spending reforms and cuts greater than the amount of any debt limit increase.”

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