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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Time is passing as the nation edges toward default, described candidly by the most anti-government and anti-tax conservative in Washington as a certain “disaster.” Yet no matter how many concessions on revenue and spending emanate from the White House and the Democrats on Capitol Hill, the Republicans who control the House of Representatives keep playing chicken, as if they actually want to crash the nation’s economy – and do permanent damage to America’s position in the world – for partisan gain.

Until last Friday, House Speaker John Boehner seemed to understand the enormous stakes in the debt-limit negotiations, even if his party’s loony freshman members did not.

Boehner humored the extremists with a ludicrous item of legislation — the “Cut, Cap and Balance” bill that actually sought to force a constitutional amendment through the Senate within less than two weeks – even as doomsday drew nearer. But the speaker simultaneously engaged in a serious effort to reach accord with President Obama, agreeing to revenue increases in those discussions. He lost this briefly attained courage, however, when he realized his members might reject that deal (and him).

Then Boehner walked out of the White House and vowed to reach a deal without the president by talking directly with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — a silly notion that was blatantly designed to serve the Republican electoral agenda in 2012 rather than to achieve resolution on the debt and deficits. Now rather than work with Reid, Boehner is pursuing yet another direction with a strictly partisan bill that would raise the debt limit by only $1 trillion, forcing the Congress (and the markets) to resume the same stalemated argument next year. Meanwhile, Reid has proposed his own new scheme, offering $2.5 trillion in spending cuts with no revenue increases, in exchange for raising the debt limit by the same amount.

Every survey shows that most Americans feel infuriated by these fruitless maneuvers, even if they don’t always understand the motivations and ideologies of the players. Nearly every poll shows that most Americans fear the impact of default and want a truly balanced solution to the nation’s twin problems of growth and debt, notably including tax increases on those who can best afford to pay more (and not including punitive cuts aimed at the poor and working families).

Yet the House Republicans are willing to risk the worst possible outcome in order to enforce the political will of a small and fanatical minority. Their refusal to avert catastrophe through compromise in a divided capital is sufficiently irresponsible to invite comparisons with terrorism.

So it is long past time for President Obama to explain – in comprehensive but comprehensible detail – exactly how and why the House Republicans are endangering the nation. He needs to tell Americans why many of the most anti-government and anti-tax Republicans in Washington, notably including Grover Norquist, the lobbyist and activist, believe that defaulting on the national debt would portend economic ruin. He should elucidate the ridiculous proposals passed by the House Republicans so far, from the Ryan budget that would decimate Medicare to the Cut Cap and Balance bill, which not only demanded instantaneous passage of a wildly ill-advised constitutional amendment, but would have enshrined special protections for the wealthiest taxpayers in the founding document. That legislation eventually would have forced the complete destruction of the social safety net – and placed American security in jeopardy as well.

Obama seems to believe that bending to the intimidation of the Republicans will serve him politically, allowing him to portray himself as “bipartisan” or even “independent” of his own party. But he only looks weak at a moment when he could display great strength. Time is passing quickly, and his authority is ebbing — but it is not too late for him to lead.

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Copyright 2011 The National Memo
  • Debty

    Don’t give in President Obama, this country needs you to stand strong and support us all. We are all aware of the cat and mouse game the republicans are playing. They do not want to work together and are working for a certain few and the tea party, we need you to work for us. No Super congress, this will not protect the people without the Constitution. Veto and show strength and use the 14th/ don’t play these game with the republicans with the lives of the American people at stake. Stand strong Mr. President, we have your back.

  • Saygil

    Stay Srong, Mr.President–Don’t give in to the Republicans!

  • DouglasWilson

    “Obama seems to believe that bending to the intimidation of the Republicans will serve him politically.”

    That just is not why Obama does what he does. As David McCullough said to Charlie Rose the other day, all presidents are different. The good ones know themselves and know how to get where they want to go by being themselves. Obama is complex. He is by nature a conciliator, and he works hard at getting agreement of the principal parties. Is that bad? No, no. Let me tell you as a litigator with 40 years experience, a deal is a whole lot more certain than going for a verdict. Obama learned that in law school and in life since.

    But he can fight plenty hard when he sees the need to do so, and believes all his settlement options have expired. But, he’s a calm, careful professional in his job, and he’s not going to go Rambo until he’s got nothing left but that, AND he thinks it will get the job done.

    And most of the time, that depends on the spine of his party, which has been sadly lacking over the years. A Senate with a 57-vote majority should have been ready to live on cots in their offices busting filibusters, but no, they had other things to do. Nancy Pelosi, arguably the best speaker in our history, passed a hundred pieces of excellent legislation, and only a few made it through that lazy, uncommitted Senate. Pat Buchanan once described Democrats as a bunch of “quiche-eating wimps,” and he was pretty much right. The Republicans are as solid and tough as a brown-shirted phalanx, while the Democrats mill around and say a dozen different things and rarely do anything as a unit. (Unfortunately, as David McCullough pointed out, strict partisanship happens to be very bad for the American model of government with divided powers.) That is why Barack Obama can’t go Rambo.

    But remember, he said he is willing to stake his presidency on getting the deficit deal done meeting his minimums. I am hopeful that Bill Clinton’s announcement the other day, that he would happily raise the debit limit unilaterally on grounds of the 14th Amendments requirement to pay the government’s debts and let the Republicans try to do something about it, was a pre-arranged signal that that is what Obama is going to do if Republicans don’t get on board. I hope that would be accompanied by his own plan to reduce the deficit, some of which he can accomplish unilaterally by executive order, and a promise to let the Bush tax cuts expire.

    That will certainly change the game.

  • Tequila81618

    And shine he would have, if he had taken Bill Clinton’s advise entering the arena with a plan in hand earmarked with $1.5 Trillion in cuts American’s would never miss? Obama entered the area instead with a hard line, “raise the debt ceiling” until after the election, we can talk later.

    Republicans must have been laughing all the way back to their offices when they learned all Obama was offering was an opening to humiliate him.. They in turn would be held blameless making him look foolish and unprepared.

  • Tequila81618

    John Boehner – President Obama wants a $2.4 Trillion dollar blank check to get him through the next election, without cuts; this is indefensible.

    Yes, give the spend-thrift more money. Has he helped Americans? If you know who, please let US know-


    If Obama takes the bait and ihcreases the debt to save the country they will charge him for violating the Constitution. Congress should be fired, all they want is to save their tax-breaks and get rid of President Obama. I say the nation should demand a tax roll-back to the Clinton years so that everyone pays to get us back on solid footing. Remember we survived with TRILLIONS IN SURPLUS.

  • Clem Schultz

    Limbaugh said it, “We must make Obama fail”. Obama said it “If you want to be a leader, you must lead.” I think it’s time. Push has come to shove. Barrack, if you can’t run with the big dogs, go sit on the porch. We’re seeing the result of a Republic form of government. In a true Democracy (With recall of all elected offices) this wouldn’t happen. Do what you have to do and gid-r-don.

  • klambert

    Do what you do best lead, do not let the GOP run us off the cliff. Use the Presidential Veto if you must!