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Published: Saturday, 7/2/2011

Tough talk

President Obama joined the debate over the national debt and budget deficit in a big way this week.

These issues, linked to the question of raising the debt ceiling, are at the heart of stalemated talks between the White House and congressional leaders. Mr. Obama has been accused of staying out of the sensitive negotiations on these issues, leaving it to Vice President Joe Biden to represent him.

At a press conference this week, the President cited the "hard deadline" of Aug. 2 to raise the debt limit. He linked that decision to job creation.

He said that it was time for lawmakers "to put aside the expedience of short-term politics" and "do their job." He criticized Congress for not working expeditiously, noting he does not allow his children to leave their homework until the night before it is due.

That is, he told lawmakers to stop acting like children and get to work. Mr. Obama's annoyance was plain and his implicit comparison was accurate: Americans see too many Republicans and Democrats blaming their opponents, resisting the necessary trade-offs to achieve agreement, and pretending that they can get everything they demand. Citizens share Mr. Obama's disgust.

The attitude the President criticized was epitomized by the recent staged walkout from the bipartisan talks by House Republican Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia. Such antics still fall in the category of summer silliness, but as the deadline nears and government default looms, things will get serious. At the same time, while Mr. Obama can't impose a settlement himself, he needs to ride closer herd on congressional Democrats.

Neither America nor the world economy can afford to watch this country turn into Greece. Congress needs to stop playing petty political games and start working, as the President said.

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