'Apostle of Bipartisanship': Media Spin Biden's Debt Ceiling Loss as a Win

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
June 5, 2023

President Joe Biden pledged for months not to negotiate with Republicans on raising the debt ceiling. Then, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) forced Biden not just to negotiate, but also to make significant spending cuts.

Guess whom mainstream media declared the winner of the showdown?

Headlines proclaimed Biden the "calm man in the capital" and an "apostle of bipartisanship."

New York Times: "The Calm Man in the Capital: Biden Lets Others Spike the Ball but Notches a Win"

The president's approach to the negotiations—and especially their aftermath—reflects a half-century of bargaining in Washington. When someone has been around the track as long as Mr. Biden has, resisting the temptation to spike the ball and claim victory can be critical to actually securing the victory in the first place. From the start of the clash with Mr. McCarthy's Republicans, Mr. Biden has followed the instincts he has developed through long, hard and sometimes painful experience.

Mr. Biden's approach was decidedly old-school in a new-school era. No matter how much Mr. McCarthy assailed him for waiting 97 days to talk about the dispute, the president believed there was no point in rushing into extended talks, given that no important agreements in Washington are made until a deadline is looming with catastrophic consequences if the two sides do not come together.

NBC News: "Biden lowers the temperature, and gets another bipartisan victory"

NPR: "In what appeared to be a nod to one of this [sic] key arguments for reelection, Biden underscored the type of steady leadership he asserts he can continue to provide in comparison to some of the partisan fighting being waged by more hardline Republicans, including leading Republican candidates for president."

Washington Post:

Friday's speech, and the signing event a day later, will amount to a victory lap, as Biden leans into an argument that is expected to be at the heart of his pitch for a second term: that he is a seasoned, competent leader who is able to deliver results in a fractured Washington and a divided America. …

Biden is now heading into campaign season with the economy showing resilience, as employers posted 339,000 jobs in May, far more than economists expected. Meanwhile, predictions of chaos engulfing the southern border after the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions have not so far materialized, and Biden's top Republican rivals are engaging in open warfare against each other.

The Guardian: "Apostle of bipartisanship: Why US debt ceiling deal was a victory for Joe Biden"

Meanwhile, the media wouldn't let go of their narrative that McCarthy is a dead man walking.

New York Times: "McCarthy Emerges From the Debt Limit Fight With Victories, and Some Wounds"

It was not pretty; in fact, it was downright ugly. He managed to do so only with significant help from across the aisle, as Democrats rescued him on a key procedural vote and then provided the support needed for passage. Mr. McCarthy exceeded his goal of winning the support of the majority of his members with 149 backing it, but more Democrats—165 of them—voted for the bill than members of his own party, an outcome that will fuel Republican criticism that he cut a deal that sold out his own people.

That is not the way powerful speakers of the past have typically accomplished their goals. …

Mr. McCarthy's achievement may yet come at a cost. Far-right conservative Republicans remain outraged at the agreement he struck with Mr. Biden, saying it fell woefully short of what he promised and what Republicans committed to as they pursued the majority last year.

Reuters: "McCarthy Lauds U.S. Debt Ceiling Deal, House Conservatives Divided"

U.S. House of Representatives speaker Kevin McCarthy on Sunday lauded the debt ceiling deal he negotiated with Democratic president Joe Biden, but a prominent House conservative warned that McCarthy has "credibility issues" that may prompt some Republicans to seek his ouster as the top Republican in Congress.

Washington Post:

But the tense clash at the White House nonetheless came to illustrate the fear and acrimony that engulfed Washington over the past month, as a Republican crusade to slash federal spending nearly plunged the U.S. government into financial chaos. It took a frenetic, last-minute scramble by Biden and McCarthy—fierce political foes with no working relationship—before the nation could resolve a fiscal crisis largely of the GOP's making. …

But Republicans accomplished less than they initially sought, infuriating conservatives, some of whom voted against the deal. Still, many party lawmakers said the war on which they staked the U.S. economy was worth waging—even if [they] aren't entirely happy with the result.