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Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Although it may not have been evident, while I have been writing this seemingly interminable introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason, a considerable part of my mind has been focused on the economic and political crisis now playing out before us. Quite obviously, I do not know how it will play out, but I do know how I would like it to play out, and I have some observations about how Obama has been playing his hand. Here they my thoughts, for what they are worth.

First, what do I hope will happen? I hope that none of the more or less draconian budget slashing proposals now being floated succeeds, and that in the end, Congress is simply unable to pass a bill raising the debt ceiling that Obama can sign. Best of all would be if they are simply unable to pass anything. Then I would like Obama to invoke the 14th Amendment, saying that he took an oath to protect and preserve the Constitution and he will not allow the United States to default. He will be daring the House Republicans to impeach him, which they may do, after which he will not be convicted in the Senate and that will be that. He will have faced down the Tea Party and won. That is what I hope will happen. We shall see.

Now, some words about how Obama has been playing his hand. Liberals, Progressives, and other people more or less on the left have been excoriating him for months now, saying that he has no spine, that he is fatally ready to give away the store, that he is being rolled by the Republicans, and so forth. Well, maybe so, maybe so, but I don't see it that way. Let us recall that when all of this started, Obama said he wanted a clean bill just raising the debt ceiling, with nothing else in it. After months of negotiation, breast beating, finger pointing, and reproach, what are we likely to get? A clean bill raising the debt ceiling, or its presidential equivalent.

Politically, the Republicans in the House are in open warfare with one another, while Obama has managed pretty much to keep the lid on the discontent in House and Senate Democratic ranks. The public is clearly on the side of compromise, which Obama is now identified with, and the Tea Party fundamentalists are revealed for the fanatical nuts they always were. At whom are they most angry? John Boehner, for heaven's sake!

It is perfectly possible to conclude that Obama is a weak, unskillful politician who is just incredibly lucky in the character of his enemies. But mightn't we just for a moment consider the possibility that he is actually vastly more skillful and steely-willed than his opponents, and is managing this entire affair so that it ends more or less as he would like? I realize that does not comport with the common wisdom about him, but how many times does this sort of thing have to happen before we twig onto it? I could of course be wrong. The next week should tell.

There has been a good deal of nostalgia on the left for Bill Clinton, a stand-up guy who faced down Newt Gingrich, and so forth. Let us remember that good old Bill tried to reform health care and failed. He gave us DADT, which it took Obama and nineteen years to reverse. He signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which Obama is now challenging in the courts.

One last word: As I have often remarked, most people do most things the way they do most other things. America's first real look at how Obama does things was his management of his campaign for the nomination. That was arguably the most brilliant political campaign ever run in America. Its hallmarks were patience, extensive groundwork, and a preternatural ability to keep focused on a goal despite the hurly-burly of a campaign and a series of emotional distractions [Reverend Wright, etc.]


Andrew Lionel Blais said...

So, suppose that BHO gets impeached in the House, cleared in the Senate, but the Supremes say that the 14th doesn't permit him to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling. Moreover, suppose that then, the US defaults, the bond rating drops to AA, or whatever, and so on. Would this be good? For example, it could happen that the states then need to cancel large numbers of projects such as school building projects to personal care assistance, etc. That would eliminate some good number of jobs. What would/should BHO do then?

Andrew Lionel Blais said...

I forgot this; there would be a rather large contingent of ticked off foreign investors. How to unruffle their feathers?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

It is not clear who would have standing to bring the case to court, save an investor whose debt has not been paid, which by hypothesis would not be the case. If the House impeaches and the Senaqte refuses to convict, there is no appeal to the Supreme Court!

Andrew Lionel Blais said...

No, not appealing a lack of a conviction; rather contesting whether the 14th allows the President to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling. Why wouldn't the House have standing? They could claim that the Constitution puts the purse strings in the House and demand that the Court restrain the President.

Chris said...

Professor, at this point you know I'm a fan of yours, so I'll be candid:
The lengths you consistly go through to defend what is basically a moderate republican president circa 1990, is....alarming!

Chris said...

At this juncture isn't it apparent, to a fellow Marxist no less, which class he's openly serving, and which class he's openly exploiting.

Chris said...

Keep in mind Obama he been urging other democratic leaders to be on board with cuts to SS and Medicare...

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