TR had the Square Deal. FDR had the New Deal. Harry S has the Fair Deal. Barack Obama will have the Raw Deal.
So a debt-ceiling “deal” has been reached. Going in to this, the President was willing to compromise but had a few lines in the sand:
- Some deficit reduction would have to come from new revenues.
- There would be an extension through the 2012 elections.
- The big social safety net programs would be protected.
What did he get? None of these. None of them. What he got was a temporary extension of the debt ceiling, but he must take ownership of it now and again in six months. He got a “super congress” stacked against him with triggers that hurt only one side. He got an agreement that the hostage-taker would not shoot the hostage at this time, though he let the hostage-taker keep the gun and even gave him more bullets.
He got rolled. That’s what he got.
I am not a Tea Party default denialist. I fully understand that the scope of a default would be unprecedented and uncharted and very likely catastrophic. I just don’t see how surrendering the principle of democratic government is better. The Republicans know that their policies would be unpopular — fatally so, in fact. So they don’t try to enact them. Instead they manipulate the far-too-easily-manipulated Democrats into making the hard choices, doing the hard things, and then getting savaged by an electorate that doesn’t understand what’s going on and can’t be bothered to learn.
There are many who say the President should have stared down the Republicans and bluffed harder about using the so-called constitutional option, invoking the 14th Amendment. I’m not one of those; I don’t believe in bluffing. He should have stared down the Republicans fully intending to invoke the 14th Amendment if need be, He should have said, This far and no further. He would have looked decisive because he would have been decisive. He would have the public on his side. More importantly, he would have been right. And given the certainty of disaster implicit in the rise of the Crazy Caucus to power, a roll of the dice would have been preferable.
I’ve already called my congressman to find out where he’ll vote. (It’s Yes for surrender.) And I’ve implored him (or rather his intern) to reconsider. The best option for the country right now is that this abomination goes down to defeat in the House. (It seems assured passage in the Senate.) Then, with the clock ticking, the President can demand a clean bill to save the nation’s credit rating, with these tough choices made not under pressure from a hostage-taker. Sadly, on this, apparently the Democrats have found their message unity that they so often lack.
The best hope for the nation, then, is that the Crazy Caucus, having been handed literally everything it wanted, will find itself still congenitally unable to take “Yes” for an answer — that the Tea Party’s visceral hatred for that upstart in the White House will compel them to vote against a bill their own leadership has negotiated and is whipping hard.