A tale of two men (Guest Voice)
Charles Krauthammer engages in the kinds of ideological cheerleading and false equivalency that has helped make the hole we find ourselves and kept digging in some strange fatalistic desire to see if we can make it to China before anyone catches wise.
The crux of Krauthammer’s post is to pin the blame of the nearly two week long shutdown and the looming debt ceiling debacle on Obama, painting him as the villain willing to plunge the nation into disaster for the sake of humiliating the GOP. The conservative columnist further encourages Republicans to keep pushing despite the absolutely abysmal polling data that suggests that the party is shooting itself in the foot as among other, more vital, pieces of anatomy.
With a strange, almost admirable, faith, Krauthammer insists that if Boehner holds out long enough, those poll numbers will turn right around, and from the ether, leverage will manifest itself and ride gallantly into battle alongside the Speaker of the House and his caucus.
Of course Charles Krauthammer gets to say this. He’s a columnist–a well paid and well known columnist who has all the job security in the world. He’s not beholden to a single voter, and he doesn’t have to answer to one of the hundreds of thousands of federal employees who may not be getting a paycheck this week, and aren’t sure when the next check will come if ever.
As a sort of aside, people love to bemoan the evils of Washington DC. No one likes politicians (except, strangely, the ones we vote for, but never mind that). But if I were to put my finger on where everything went wrong, it’s the media. The news doesn’t work the way it used to. It used to be Walter Cronkite, “That’s the way it is.” There wasn’t an option B. It wasn’t “That’s the way it is, unless this offends your sensibilities, or you believe something else contrary to all evidence.” But things changed. Now you get to shop for a news source that agrees with you! You don’t even have to look that hard to find a news channel, or a blog, or a paper that will bend over backwards to tell you everything about your world view is completely awesome and righteous, and hey, those jerks in Washington should stop at nothing to make sure the whole country falls in line because we got the good stuff right here.
And it works because it sells. Unfortunately in selling all of these opinions, there seems to be a lack of responsibility. One would kind of hope that, after helping prod us to the brink, all the high profile, overly-partisan news sites would through their hands up and say, “Oh, hey… Uh… yeah, no we didn’t mean for ya’ll to take it that far. I mean, yeesh.” After all, these high powered enablers have to live in this country too, even after the economy cracking apocalypse.
Meanwhile, the non-partisan sources are often so determined to not be considered partisan, they wrap themselves up in false equivalency like a set of referee stripes and try to even up both sides of every debate regardless of how lopsided objective reality is. They aren’t helping.
So, the result is, for every Krauthammer, there is someone else doing the exact same thing to Speaker Boehner. This crisis is the fault of both parties refusing to talk to each other, right? Either President Obama or Speaker Boehner could end this, as conventional wisdom would suggest, making this whole thing a tale of two men.
As President of the United States, Mr. Obama could clearly end this “stalemate” any time he chooses correct? All he has to do is “negotiate” with Mr. Boehner, and we could put hundreds of thousands of federal employees back to work, the debt ceiling would no longer be an issue, and people could start visiting war memorials again (the uproar over the memorials and state parks is another sore spot with me I may address a little bit later).
This is only sort of true, actually. One of the grossest misunderstandings the people have in American governance is the power, or really the lack thereof, that resides in the presidency. In this instance, Obama only has veto power. He doesn’t have the ability to huddle with Republicans and make anything they agree to law. It still has to make it through the House and the Senate. So if Obama arranges something with the House Republicans, there’s still a few Democrats in the Senate that are going to have their say as well. Now, given the extreme circumstances of the hour, it’s highly unlikely Senate Democrats would stand in the way of any deal brokered between Mr. Obama and the House, it’s not completely out of the question, and some of the things Republicans really want would raise a lot of hackles in the upper chamber.
And Boehner? Could he end this whole thing? Actually, he could. The way the House of Representatives works is that the Speaker of the House decides what bills come to the floor for a vote. Boehner could, at any time, bring to the floor a vote on “clean” continuing resolutions and debt ceiling increases. And, believe it or not, the votes to let these go through are actually there .
So either man could, feasibly, end the crisis tomorrow. Why don’t they?
Obama, for his part, is so in love with his Affordable Care Act that he’s willing to drive the nation into catastrophe. That or he’s clearly in love with the idea of making the Republican Party thoroughly and completely eat it on this one, regardless of the costs. These are possible. It’s also possible that Mr. Obama is attempting to prevent a very grave precedent in this country, one in which laws that are on the books can be attacked through extraordinary means. We have a number of mechanisms in place that allow the challenging of any law on the books without threatening the fabric of our country. Challenging a law in the Supreme Court, and focusing on winning more elections to gain more power in congress and the White House are designed to do just that.
That being said, there isn’t anything that is anti-constitutional about what House Republicans are doing. It’s called the power of the purse, and sometimes thought of as a last ditch effort, a final check on the balance of power. What is happening in the House isn’t illegal, just incredibly, irresponsibly dangerous.
What about Mr. Boehner? I’m not going to attack Boehner’s internal motives much, just comment on two of the most commonly mentioned reasons why he refuses to budge. The first is something he calls the Hastert rule.
The Hastert rule, based on former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, suggests that a speaker of the house can’t bring to a vote any bill that does not have the support of a majority of his own party. Boehner can’t let a clean vote come to the floor of the House because most Republicans won’t vote for it.
There are two reasons why this is bogus. For one, Mr. Hastert himself has gone on record saying that the rule isn’t a rule himself. Both Mr. Hastert and Mr. Boehner have violated this rule on a number of occasions. The other reason is that the Hastert rule isn’t actually written down anywhere. It’s not like the filibuster which is a creative interpretation of the rules of the Senate. It’s just something some House Speakers do to ensure the majority party always gets its way.
Boehner’s second justification is that the votes for a clean vote just aren’t there—the initiative would fail in the House. But, as linked to above, there is enough evidence to suggest that this is also not the case.
One last thing. The will of The People.
You hear politicians talk about this a lot; what the American People want. It’s a phrase that rankles; it makes my teeth itch and my knuckles twitch. Being of sound body and mind, I’m pretty sure I know what I want. As a result, I don’t like being told what I want by a guy I’ve never talked to from a state I’ve never visited.
Just something to chew over when it comes to the will of the people, and the two men capable of putting an end to the government shutdown and the pending crisis of the debt ceiling. President Obama was re-elected to the White House by 65 Million people across the nation. Mr. Boehner was put into office by a quarter million people in Ohio.
K.E. Moore is a single father currently living in Southeast Virginia. After ten years serving in the military, he continues to work in a support capacity for the Department of the Navy as a civilian. A one time avid progressive blogger, Moore now focuses much of his free time writing novels, playing guitar, video games, and enjoying quality time with his two daughters.