Must Reads: Boehner Plays Chicken As Economic Armageddon Looms

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John Boehner Plays Chicken With the Economy
Even as Treasury officials warn of an economic “Armageddon” if Congress fails to up the nation's debt limit, John Boehner said yesterday he won’t even guarantee a vote. The House Speaker is prepared to let the nation default on its credit, he says, unless Democrats give way on deep spending cuts. "If the president doesn’t get serious about the need to address our fiscal nightmare, yeah, there’s a chance it [the debt limit vote] could not happen,” Boehner told Politico. “But that’s not my goal."

Read the full story: Boehner won't promise vote on debt ceiling, Politico

Hayley Barbour Exits Lame 2012 Field
The decision by "fat redneck" uber-lobbyist Hayley Barbour to beg off the 2012 presidential race was probably a good call. After all, the Mississippi governor had no chance. But his exit, as well as sending rivals scrambling for access to his rolodex, has drawn fresh attention to the piss-poor quality of the GOP field. A new ABC-Washington Post poll has barely four in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents satisfied with the current crop of candidates. Meanwhile, Obama, for all his recent travails, is a rockstar campaigner who can count on the advantages of incumbency. All of which, says WP columnist Dan Balz, puts Republicans "under growing pressure to tamp down concerns" that they're screwed for 2012.

Read the full story: With Barbour out, new questions for 2012 Republican field, Washington Post

Gas Prices Hurting Americans - Not Least Obama
With gas prices heading skyward, Americans are feeling the pinch and getting increasingly ticked off -- at Barack Obama.  Six in 10 respondents to a Washington Post-ABC News poll six said they had cut back on driving because of rising fuel prices, and seven in 10 said that high pump prices are causing them "financial hardship." Gas prices closed out last week at $3.88 a gallon, up 81 cents since the start of the year, and they're taking a toll on Obama's numbers: 60 percent of independents who say they’ve been hurt by spiking gas prices say they definitely won’t vote for Obama in 2012.

Read the full story: High gas prices cut into driving habits — and Obama’s approval rating, Washington Post

Odds Are Against Protesters in Syrian Crackdown
Syrian autocrat Bashar al-Assad has cracked down on pro-democracy protesters to the point where much of the country "now resembles a militarised zone," Middle East scholar Fawaz Gerges reports for the BBC. The country is now on the verge of an all-out war, with thousands of heavily armed soldiers and tanks swarming the streets of cities and towns. Unlike in Egypt and Tunisia, the Syrian Baathist regime and the country's armed forces are tight, and it's clear the government is prepared to deploy massive force to crush the uprising, so the odds, for now, "are against the protesters."

Read the full story: Syria: Can Assad Defeat the Protesters? BBC