Ok, I’ve settled down. But there is nothing to be happy about. My biggest problem in constructing a response to the debt ceiling debacle and the “bi-partisan” deal that put a momentary end to the recklessness and nihilism is trying to say the same thing in a different way. Because, frankly, I’ve pretty much melted down my thesaurus over the argument that there is nothing … nothing … “bi-partisan” about the modern conservative political strategy. The Republicans are playing a zero sum game, in D.C. and in virtually every state, and Democratic leaders are looking like feckless chumps as they maintain their “adult in the room” posture.
In the final days of the debt ceiling idiocy I was fascinated by the ethical dilemma facing Barack Obama. While I was personally in favor of an LBJ-style move, like invoking the 14th amendment and basically saying, “Fuck it, sue me”, that is exactly what the GOP would have done. They would have launched another all-out, all-consuming impeachment crisis, led by Rush Limbaugh and the echo chamber, with Teabaggers clogging DC for months to come. Talk about a steroid speedball for the semi-literate.
But that aside, Obama had two choices, neither of which served the best interests of the country, which is pretty much what he swore an oath to do.
1: Beat the Republicans at chicken and let the country/world experience what they wrought. Sean Hannity, Michele Bachmann and the other intellectual leaders of modern conservatism were convinced that nothing really so bad would go down. A few delayed checks to grannies (who would blame “the government”/ i.e. “Obama”) but none of the rest of that hysterical stuff about inflating mortgage and revolving credit interest rates. (Not that they really knew or cared.) If you take the view, as I do, that none of this obstructionist stuff is going to stop until a calamity stamps it on the public mind as the indisputable result of the work of Eric Cantor, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks and Mitch McConnell we are doomed to repeat these self-inflicted crises month after month after month after … .
But given that Obama takes his oath and responsibilities seriously, and there was no way of knowing every consequence of a default, he couldn’t, within his Constitutional code of ethics, allow such a thing to happen.
2: With any unilateral action unavailable to him, the ethics of conceding to a budget negotiation over the debt ceiling became Obama’s principal challenge. He knows, like every responsible economist, and hell, even the reliably cynical analysts at J.P. Morgan that about the worst thing you can do to the country at this point is suck still more money out of the economy, whether through entitlement “reform” (which is code for replacing lower-cost government services for much higher-cost, but well-lobbied, private coverages) or even defense spending. The latter needs no end of reform, but the sad fact is that it pays for a lot of high-tech, professional jobs, a better proposition than the GOP’s vision of full-employment via McDonalds and Wal-Mart greeting. (What we need is a WPA-type project that converts the tech-savvy industries away from building yet another aircraft carrier or joint strike fighter to reconstruction of the energy grid and any of hundreds of long-overdue economy-boosting infrastructure improvements. Same tax dollars, much bigger bang.)
Given the votes, Obama chose the latter. No default. Life functions “stable”. Live to fight another day. I get that.
But as in Minnesota, where Mark Dayton essentially let the GOP walk away singed but not scarred, Obama continues to fail at use clear, precise and entirely fair and accurate language from the bully pulpit. (Not that he ever comes close to being an actual bully, unfortunately.) Hell, even yesterday he’s on TV describing the FAA shutdown as a problem of “Congress leaving town without doing its job”. No … when you’re the President of the United States and you have the microphone you tell the public that airline safety is imperiled, thousands of workers — “jobs”! — at airport/infrastructure construction projects are left without a paycheck, and the Treasury is losing millions of dollars in revenue, because THE REPUBLICAN PARTY is playing the hostage game again, this time because it wants to bust up union rights within the FAA.
Put another way, you stop pretending that eventually, if you maintain your dignity, the Republicans will come to their senses and return to the spirit of the 1960s and 70s. They won’t. Especially when they’ve tasted blood like they have in this latest fiasco. As long as you, the face of the government, continue to let them off easy as, “part of the Washington problem”, or “Washington playing politics” or whatever the gauzy euphemism-of-the-day, the 60% of the public who have no idea who John Boehner is, much less Cantor and — no chance here at all — Karl Rove’s FreedomWorks, have no other name to fix their animosity on … other than you, Mr. President, for not doing something about it all.
The opposition, which Obama persistently refers to as “having the best interests of the country at heart”, is single-minded. It has one goal, and one goal only. His defeat. What consequences ensue are acceptable collateral damage. And Obama continues to behave as though he is unaware of that.
Damned blood pressure.