Eric Cantor: The most dangerous whiner in America

Whenever economic disaster looms, you can count on the House majority leader to complain it is someone else's fault

Topics: Budget Showdown, How the World Works, Debt ceiling, Eric Cantor, R-Va.,

Eric Cantor: The most dangerous whiner in AmericaHouse Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va. takes part in news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg) (Credit: Harry Hamburg)

The first time I took serious notice of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor came in late September 2008, in the immediate aftermath of the failed vote to authorize the TARP Wall Street bailout. The nation was in a state of profound crisis. Economic activity was shuddering to a halt across the globe and Wall Street financial institutions were collapsing by the day. Say what you will about the merits of TARP, but the magnitude of the stock market crash that accompanied the failed vote only increased the general sense of distress. The United States was staring directly at the greatest economic disaster since the Great Depression and our political system appeared incapable of responding.

The failed vote was a huge surprise, and naturally attention focused on the role of  the House GOP leadership. Nancy Pelosi had managed to deliver most of her caucus, even though the prospect of bailing out Wall Street’s biggest financial institutions made most Democrats sick to their stomachs. But 133 House Republicans had voted no. At the time, Eric Cantor was deputy minority whip — his job was to wrangle votes. Although now he would like to pretend it never happened, he supported TARP and voted for it. So where did the train run off the tracks?

Turns out, it was all Nancy Pelosi’s fault. She made a mean speech before the vote and hurt Republican feelings.

During the press conference that followed the Monday afternoon vote, Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) held up a copy of Pelosi’s speech, saying, “Right here is the reason, I believe, why this vote failed, and this is Speaker Pelosi’s speech that, frankly, struck the tone of partisanship that, frankly, was inappropriate in this discussion.”

Whiny, playing the victim, refusing to take responsibility for his own party’s behavior: Ladies and gentlemen, the great statesman Eric Cantor, during one of the darkest moments in the recent history of the United States.

And so here we are again, hurtling toward a self-inflicted wound that could be far more devastating than one bungled vote in the fall of 2008. And who do we have standing at the center of the mess, effectively blocking any progress toward a deal that would preserve the credit-worthiness of the United States? Eric Cantor, now the majority leader of the House of Representatives. As the representative of the no-compromise House GOP, Eric Cantor is now the most powerful, and dangerous, politician in America.



The New York Times’ Michael Shear has a silly article up today in which he characterizes Democratic efforts to “demonize” Cantor as the new “boogeyman” as mere partisan maneuvering. No doubt, strategic partisanship is playing  a role. But the Democratic position is strengthened by the fact that it just so happens to be an accurate representation of reality.

After the failure of his own attempt to strike a “grand bargain” with Obama, Speaker of the House John Boehner has been rendered silent and powerless. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is scrambling to cobble together some kind of face-saving deal that would allow Republicans to keep attacking Obama without creating an economic meltdown. But Cantor? Cantor is going out of his way to torpedo any chance of a deal. He walked out of the Biden negotiations. He blew up the Boehner-Obama rapprochment. Perhaps worst of all, as Matthew Yglesias has documented, Cantor is actively misrepresenting the state of budget negotiations to his own party.

In an earlier phase of negotiations headed by Joe Biden, the White House was prepared to entertain almost $2 trillion in cuts in exchange for Republicans agreeing to some tax increases. But Republicans rejected that, because they reject tax increases. Then later, President Obama tried to up the ante by suggesting $4 trillion in deficit reduction, again balanced between spending cuts and tax increases. But Republicans rejected that, because they reject tax increases. Now Cantor has put together a slide show based on the false premise that a bipartisan “Biden Framework” existed to do the almost $2 trillion in cuts. And his proposal is that instead of doing the $4 trillion in deficit reduction, they just implement the made-up framework.

And to top it all off, Eric Cantor is still whiny! By his own account of Wednesday’s budget negotiations at the White House, the meeting broke up when President Obama “got very agitated, seemingly.”

Mr. Cantor quoted the president as saying: “Eric, don’t call my bluff. I’m going to the American people with this.”

Then, Mr. Cantor said, “He shoved back and said, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow’ and walked out.” “I was a little taken aback,” Mr. Cantor added.

Oh no! Was the president mean to you, Eric? Did he hurt your feelings? Maybe you should blow up the economy to make yourself feel better.

The Democratic version of yesterday’s meeting went a little differently; according to them, Cantor kept repeatedly pushing the same short-term budget deal, which would require repeating the entire debt ceiling debacle all over again next year, that Obama had already rejected. While it isn’t wise to trust any party’s account as the unvarnished truth, when you consider how Cantor is telling his own caucus things that are manifestly untrue, well, maybe one man’s perceived “agitation” is actually some righteous presidential fury.

Kevin Drum thinks Cantor is digging his own political grave:

Here’s a prediction: when all’s said and done and the debt ceiling fight is finally over, Eric Cantor is going to be a lot further away from becoming Speaker of the House than he was six months ago. Every day he’s looking more and more like a petulant child playing media games and less and less like a principled statesman working in the best interests of the country. He thinks he’s being clever and savvy, but the rest of the country is seeing a grasping, opportunistic politician who thinks that posturing for Fox News is more important than facing up to serious problems. He’s setting his career back a decade.

We can only hope so. If Cantor’s career arc goes any higher after this performance, it’s going to be a long century. 

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 22
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
    I always think of “All the Young Dudes” when I look at this shot. These fans had caught Ian Hunter in the CBGB's basement outside the bathrooms, and I just stepped in to record the moment.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>