Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The stopped clock gets it right

Thomas Friedman isn't actually a stopped clock, but I usually don't find his work insightful or even readable.  But every now and then he comes through with a good column.  Today is one of those days:

"What is at stake in this government shutdown forced by a radical Tea Party minority is nothing less than the principle upon which our democracy is based: majority rule. President Obama must not give in to this hostage taking — not just because Obamacare is at stake, but because the future of how we govern ourselves is at stake."

I know people on the Republican side (or, at least, a sane version of the Republican side) who agree that what's going on here is an attempted constitutional coup d'etat.  The coup plotters' contempt for democracy and for a cooperative social fabric is so clear that I really wonder what they would do if actually in power.  I don't think we can assume that they would honor democratic values or constitutional norms.

The House Republican leadership (people such as Boehner and Ryan) appear to be placing themselves in a position where they can't back down from triggering a full-blown debt default without leaving themselves publicly embarrassed and internally discredited.  This could be Nixon's "madman" strategy (his idea that, if you convince the other side that you are crazy enough to pull the trigger, they will have to back down).  But instead they may just be trapping themselves.  The problem is that the Democrats, even if convinced that the House Republicans really will pull the trigger, can't afford to back down, due to the point in Friedman's column.  It would be like Charles Lindbergh paying ransom in a setting where, the very next day, the kidnappers could grab the baby all over again.

So far as I can tell, this creates a very high likelihood that we will have a full-blown debt default, leaving the next move (at some point after October 17) to the Obama Administration. 

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