Coupled with Boehner’s rebuttal, the most plausible explanation to my mind is also the most troubling: both sides have given up making a deal, and are now just working on fixing the blame. Boehner’s performance was uncharacteristically forceful, and even displayed a few flashes of personality, which was a nice change from his usual studied blandness. But personal entertainment aside, this is not the moment when I really wanted to see John Boehner spontaneously generate a backbone. He wasn’t trying to explain his position to a curious public; he was trying to justify the unjustifiable decision to risk the US credit rating rather than agree to a deal that Democrats could also live with.
It’s a tricky argument to make: Why would the President and Speaker let us default? It’s a terrible fate. Our creditworthiness goes down the tubes, legally necessary payments don’t get made, the economy takes serious damage with greater unemployment and a smaller GDP. A more cynical consideration: They know this is a no-win situation electorally. If we default, there is no way the President will ever have a 50% approval rating or greater. There’s going to be too much pain to justify his re-election. And the GOP congress is already taking the heat for a failure to make a deal.
It makes no sense not to raise the debt ceiling asap.
And yet what few political instincts I have are screaming that this is reality. Right now one of the leading voices against nearly any sort of plan – he just helped shoot down Boehner’s plan – is Jim Jordan of Ohio. This guy, like Mike Lee of Utah, is another world-champion idiot:
Unlike many others in his caucus, Jordan does not predict disaster should Aug.2 come and go without action. He predicts a “glitch” but said the real hurdles would come later when entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security crash.
The debate over the debt ceiling, Jordan reasons, gives conservatives bargaining leverage to “fix the financial and fiscal situation of the country.”
Threatening to destroy the US credit rating and not pay out Social Security and Medicare is not leverage.
That having been said, this is in a way the immediate legacy of health care reform. You can’t simply have a straight party-line vote on a major new entitlement in the midst of the worst recession in years and call the result a “win.” I’m not saying Democrats are responsible for the idiocy of the GOP on the debt ceiling. I am saying the atmosphere is more poisonous because both sides are more radical – and a lot stupider – than we’ve been led to believe.
We need better politicians, and fast. Ideological tests in both parties will not work. We can’t have people in office who seem to be listening to us but are really crazy and can’t work with their fellow employees. Right now, the people in this crisis who seem to me to be doing their job: Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, the Gang of Six and a few others. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio has been very eloquent on the dangers of default. No one likes any of these people. It doesn’t matter. They might actually be able to govern, not just win elections.