President Obama should give in. Yes, this mess is all the Republicans’ fault. Yes, it’s outrageous that they can hold the government hostage in order to reargue a law that’s been voted on, signed, enacted, and upheld by the Supreme Court. Yes, it’s a terrible precedent. Nevertheless, he should give in.
He should speak to the nation and say, “I cannot in good conscience put you and this country through the traumatic consequences of a default. The Republicans apparently don’t feel that way. They don’t care whether veterans and seniors get the benefits they have earned. They don’t care whether they destroy the full faith and credit of the United States, which has never before defaulted on its debts and made the dollar the world’s safest currency. They don’t care if their irresponsibility drives us into a new recession or worse. They don’t even seem to care if the families of soldiers dying in defense of our freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq get a proper opportunity to grieve and honor them.
“The sad truth is that if you don’t care about any of that, it gives you tremendous power over those who do. Perhaps unfortunately, I do care. And I believe the stakes are too high to let this become a testosterone contest. So I have sent a letter to Speaker Bohner, saying that I will agree to a year’s postponement of the Affordable Care Act, if he will agree to a rise in the debt limit that is at least big enough to spare us another episode like this for a year.
“I can’t pretend that this is not a defeat for common sense, good government, and democracy. And if people wish to see it as a defeat for me, so be it. I have more important things to worry about. “
Just as not caring about the good of the country gives strength to the Republicans, not caring about how he looks would give strength to Obama. You win the game of chicken by refusing to play.
In a Parliamentary system, a crisis like the one we’re having would never happen. If relations between the prime minister and parliament ever reached the low point that the president and Congress have reached in this country, the prime minister would demand a vote of confidence. The exact wording is established by tradition: “This house has no confidence in her majesty’s government.” If he or she loses this vote (that is, if the resolution carries, the prime minister resigns and “goes to the country” (that is, calls an election). And the people decide who’s right, and who therefore has the right to govern.
President Obama cannot call an election, but we’re having a midterm election in about a year, and he can make it a referendum on whether people want the Constitution effectively rewritten by madmen so that crises like these can happen more often.
The media will no doubt call Obama weak because he gave in. So let them. Sticks and stones. Meanwhile, will the Republicans really take the past couple of weeks as a precedent and push him around on every issue that comes up? Highly unlikely. They are already getting most of the blame. They surely don’t look forward to trying to convince voters it was such a swell experience that they’re going to put us through it again and again.