He's prepared to take unilateral action to keep/get us out of default. (My advice would be to GET us out, after there's been enough of an earthquake for the American people to understand just how reckless the Republicans have been.)
I draw this conclusion from what I saw the President doing in that press conference that leads me to that belief. Interestingly, some are interpreting his remarks as "dismissing" those possibilities, or ruling them out. That's not how I saw it.
Here's what the President actually said:
I know there's been some discussion, for example, about my powers under the Fourteenth Amendment to go ahead and ignore the debt ceiling law. Setting aside the legal analysis, what matters is is that if you start having a situation in which there's legal controversy about the U.S. Treasury's authority to issue debt, the damage will have been done even if that were constitutional because people wouldn't be sure. It would be tied up in litigation for a long time. That's going to make people nervous.
So a lot of the strategies that people have talked about, well the president can roll out a big coin, or he can resort to some other constitutional measure. What people ignore is that ultimately what matters is, 'What are the people who are buying treasury bills think?'
And he went on to talk about how someone would hesitate to buy a house, or require some kind of premium, if there were some uncertainty about the owner's having title to the house.
So what is President Obama doing here? It's true that he's expressing dissatisfaction with the presidential-rescue solution, but he's not ruling it out.
He's saying that it would be far better for the Congress to raise the debt ceiling and remove all uncertainty about default. He's saying there's a cost --the premium we'd have to pay to compensate for the uncertainties that buyers of U.S. debt may feel-- if the debt ceiling were to be raised by means that could face a constitutional challenge. ("It would be tied up in litigation for a long time. That's going to make people nervous.")
By this means, he keeps the pressure on Congress to raise the debt ceiling. And rightly so.
Rightly, first, because that pressure is politically appropriate. No good would come of his showing, while the burden rests on Congress, any readiness to rescue the nation from the Republicans, and thus the Republicans from the consequences of their recklessness. (For that reason, I'm glad to see commentators interpreting his remarks as "dismissing" the presidential-rescue option.)
And rightly, second, because Congress passing an increase in the debt ceiling is in fact better for the American and world economies, and for the American polity, than his having to take an action that would likely be challenged and thus create some financial uncertainties as well as political distractions.
But the same argument also sets up his taking such action if Congress fails to respond appropriately to that pressure, and to act responsibly on the "full faith and credit of the United States."
Uncertainty may be bad, but the certainty of disaster is even worse.
So if the choice is between "FOR SURE the United States defaults NOW" and "MAYBE the United States defaults IN A FEW YEARS" (if the Supreme Court somehow were to uphold the Congress's right to destroy the country and not the President's right to protect it), it is clear which is the better option.
With this presentation, I think President Obama has gone as far as he's going to go --or should go-- prior to Congress's actual failure, to open the door for his rescuing the country. But he's gone far enough to set the stage for taking that action and then defending his action in court if or when it's challenged.
No concessions. And a readiness to act unilaterally. That's the combination I recommended in 2011, and again in recent months. After today's press conference, I'm feeling more confidence that before that this is the policy President Obama has embraced.
This TIME Magazine cover is, for me, a hopeful sign. It comes from a very mainstream publication, and it is conveying that sense of menace (storm clouds) to our national institutions (Capitol dome) and to our fundamental democratic principles ("Majority Rule").
The nation knows who's putting that principle in jeopardy: it's the Party that refuses to accept that when they lose elections, they don't get to call the shots.
"So I repeat now what I've been saying all year, and the hostage-takers should have no doubt that I mean what I say: I am not going to negotiate with people pointing a gun at our nation's well-being. Not on this shutdown. Not on the debt ceiling.
"That's not how government is supposed to work in the United States of America.
"The Constitution gave us elections and a normal legislative process to decide on the laws that govern us. I'm going to protect the Constitution against those who would sweep all that aside and replace it with blackmail."
Should they? Or should they work to make this episode as disastrous as possible for the Republicans, shaming the Republican Wrecking Crew as much as they can?
My own inclination is to use this as a moment to inflict as much damage on the Republicans as possible. Given their conduct over this past decade plus, I think that driving out the destructive spirit from the Republican Party (or, if that spirit cannot be driven out, the destruction of the Republican Party) should be the number one political priority for those who care about the nation.
When the opponent is on the ropes, but the fight is hardly over, is NOT the time to back away.
To give them a face-saving out would be like a prize fighter working to make his punches glancing rather than full-on impact against the opponent.
"We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don't, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary." (Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee)The Tea Party tail wags the Republican dog in the House because the base has been rendered, over the past twenty years, so detached from reality that any Republican who acts sanely and responsibly reasonably fears he's committing political suicide.
These are people for the most part sane, but having been persuaded over the past generation of so much that is false, about a dimension of the world about which people lack for the most part enough knowledge to understand on their own, that in the realm of political beliefs, they are effectively insane-- substantially detached from reality, ruled by falsehoods and delusions.
Either the false worldview that's been inculcated in the Republican base by people like Limbaugh and Murdock and the rest of the propagandists must be corrected, yielding a sane conservative party. Or the continuation of a base inflamed with the dangerous combination of false beliefs and rabid insistence on enforcing them on others will continue to wreak destruction.
If we're lucky, what they destroy first will be the Republican Party. But even with that luck, the process will be destructive also of the well-being of our nation, as the present unnecessary government shutdown illustrates.
But who will fight to bring sanity to the Republican base? Are there Republicans brave enough to take on the job? Can anyone get them to listen?
We've been hearing a lot about the Republican's ideological positions. It's not about ideology.
It's way deeper.
Does it make sense that an idea that came out of the Heritage Foundation, and was put forward in the 1990s by the Republican caucus in the Senate, that today's Republicans would find it so profoundly objectionable --that they'd truly believe it represented such a monstrous a threat to America -- that they'd launch this kamikaze war to oppose it?
(That makes as much sense as that Wayne LaPierre, who supported universal background checks in the late 90s, would truly believe now that such checks would represent the intolerable assault on American liberty he lately declared them to be.)
Does it make sense that if Obamacare were really what's driving the Republicans, they'd have to wage their campaign against it with so many lies about what it is and what it does?
If they were really against "big government," if they were really ideologically opposed to government involvement in the American people's medical process, would this same Republican Party, around the country in the states under their control, be passing versions of the "transvaginal ultrasound" requirement-- a politically imposed, medically unnecessary procedure?
No. None of these things makes sense in the terms in which they are presented by the Republicans, and generally discussed in the media.
It's way deeper.
How does one party that has lost two presidential elections and a Supreme Court case - as well as two Senate elections - think it has the right to shut down the entire government and destroy the full faith and credit of the United States Treasury to get its way on universal healthcare now? I see no quid pro quo even. Just pure blackmail, resting on understandable and predictable public concern whenever a major reform is enacted. But what has to be resisted is any idea that this is government or politics as usual. It is an attack on the governance and the constitutional order of the United States.Right on. But it should be recognized that this "attack on the governance and the constitutional order of the United States" -- with Republicans using blackmail to extort powers that the American people have given, in recent elections, to the other major political party-- is only the latest on a virtual war against the constitutional order of the United States that's been waged from the right for what is now more than a decade.
So how far back does this right-wing war against the American democracy go?
President Obama says: I won't negotiate over the debt ceiling.
John Boehner says: Won't negotiate? That's not how things work.
I say: No negotiation with terrorist blackmailers is long-established American policy.
These Republicans are the same guys who have been banging the drum about how bad for the U.S. Economy "Uncertainty" is.
Do they give out awards for most blatant hypocrisy?
People now see the crazy destructiveness, but something is strikingly still missing.
Why don't our national commentators spend more time on questions like:
"How did it come to pass that one of our two major political parties has become this monstrosity?"
Or: "How did the Republican Party break so bad?"
But, more fundamentally, the nihilism and the craziness and the destructiveness that we see going on with the "extremists" within the Party represents a fuller flowering of what the Republican Party establishment sowed and cultivated.
The Tea Party didn't even exist before Barack Obama became president. But by then we'd already had, thanks to this Republican Party, eight years of the most lawless and the most destructive presidency in history (with the possible exception of Buchanan's).
The Tea Party was not part of Congress until 2011. But by then, we'd already had two years of Republicans in opposition taking the unprecedented step of making it their top priority to make the new president fail, to prevent anything good from being accomplished even if that meant voting against their own ideas.
The Tea Party should be understood, I believe, in two main ways:
I will be on the radio Wednesday morning on the main AM station broadcasting out of Harrisonburg, Virginia: WSVA, 55 on the AM dial.
I will be paired with Joshua Huffman, who describes himself as a "Paleo-Conservative," discussing matters of our politics from 10:10 until 11:00 AM Wednesday morning.
Issues that Joshua and I are planning to discuss are:
1) The upcoming Virginia elections
2) The looming debt ceiling crisis, and
3) The issue of liberty, and what dimensions of liberty are most important.
I will have as my main agenda what I've had as my main agenda pretty much non-stop for the past nine years: to try to help as many people as possible see the truth about the crisis that's besetting America in our times.
This will be the third such monthly show that Mr. Huffman and I have done together on WSVA.
Those outside the broadcast area can hear it at www.wsvaonline.com/ where there's a "Listen Live" button in the upper right corner of the screen.