“This is no way to run the greatest country on Earth. It’s a dangerous game that we’ve never played before, and we can’t afford to play it now. Not when the jobs and livelihoods of so many families are at stake. We can’t allow the American people to become collateral damage to Washington’s political warfare.”
—Barack Obama, July 25, 2011
Mr. Obama is frustratingly rational.
What frustrates is his ongoing assumption that he is dealing with people who will respond to reasonable arguments like, say, when he quoted Jefferson last night:
“Every man cannot have his way in all things — without this mutual disposition, we are disjointed individuals, but not a society.”
Thomas Jefferson never met Grover Norquist.
Or John Boehner.
Last night, during this moment of national import, the Speaker of the House took the opportunity to trash the President and tell monstrous lies, beginning with this one:
Millions are looking for work, have been for some time, and the spending binge going on in Washington is a big part of the reason why.
Who would write such a shockingly dishonest sentence, let alone stand before America as a leader of a once-great political party and utter it?
He has now officially become the leader of the extremists in the GOP, those unreasonable souls whom George Will, Tea Party intellectual, praised this way in today’s Joplin Globe:
Their inflexibility astonishes and scandalizes Washington because it reflects the rarity of serene fidelity to campaign promises.
Leaving aside the false suggestion that the debt ceiling formed any part of the campaign in 2010, consider the fact that Will is praising inflexibility when the only way our country can be governed is by flexibility, by compromise. There is no other way to govern 300 million people.
Mr. Will can extol teapartiers’ “serene fidelity”—I’m sure all extremists possess it—but many of us see people who not only won’t bend in the slightest to the will of the other side, they won’t even bend to the will of the country, whose people want—by a substantial majority—a compromise that includes revenue increases.
Tea Party zealots, as President Obama surely realizes by now, are giddy over the idea that they have a rather dear hostage tied up in their ideological basement: The economic health of the United States and by extension the working class and the most vulnerable of Americans.
And what all of us need to remember is that these zealots, far from any known region of rationality, are willing to shoot that hostage right between the eyes and proudly and defiantly walk into the 2012 elections with blood spatters on their hands.
Boehner fibbed too when he said about the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act that it was passed “with bipartisan support,” knowing that only five Democrats supported it. As I have previously suggested, it is nearly twice as accurate to characterize it as having bipartisan opposition, since nine Republicans sensibly voted against it. But such dishonesty is trivial compared to the deceit involved in the conservative insistence that the budget can be balanced without additional revenues.
The Speaker also said this:
I want you to know I made a sincere effort to work with the president to identify a path forward that would implement the principles of Cut, Cap, & Balance in a manner that could secure bipartisan support and be signed into law. I gave it my all.
His all? No one, including the Speaker himself, believed that that extremist piece of legislation—its radical “principles” dreamed up just a few months ago by inflexible ideologues—ever had a chance to get through the Senate, let alone get to the President, since it would have ripped gaping holes in America’s social safety net.
And dubious is Mr. Boehner’s suggestion that the latest scheme he and Eric Cantor have dreamed up—the two-step approach designed as a political instrument to bludgeon the President in six months with the same kind of foamy-mouth zealotry we have seen the last six months—”can and will pass the Senate.”
Hell, he’s not even sure he can get most of the foamy-mouth zealots in his own caucus to vote for it.
In any case, President Obama’s address last night was obviously a way of urging the people most affected by a debt default—the hostages—to get involved in the process and try to talk the hostage-takers into releasing them.
Unfortunately, that won’t happen.
The hammer is cocked. In their zealotry, the perpetrators of this crime believe that pulling the trigger may be the only way of getting the larger job done: a revolutionary retreat into pre-New Deal America, where the moneyed class will enjoy the bounty while the rest of us eat their scraps.
As for President Obama, he will have to decide whether he will play it safe and pay the ransom to political fanatics in Congress or be the champion of the following point of view, which he described last night:
Most Americans, regardless of political party, don’t understand how we can ask a senior citizen to pay more for her Medicare before we ask a corporate jet owner or the oil companies to give up tax breaks that other companies don’t get. How can we ask a student to pay more for college before we ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries? How can we slash funding for education and clean energy before we ask people like me to give up tax breaks we don’t need and didn’t ask for?
That’s not right. It’s not fair.
No, it’s not right and it’s not fair, Mr. Obama. So how can you put your name on it?