Dear President Obama,
Today I’m even more discouraged with you than I ever have been. And please don’t flatter yourself by thinking, as I suspect you do, that because you made “the hard choices” people were bound to be concerned. Do not smugly say to yourself, well “this had to be done.” It did not. Not today.
This was an artificial situation created by a political party, the barely recognizable Republican Party, itself under control of the Tea Partiers because even the traditional Republicans among their ranks are unwilling to risk that they might not be re-elected if they stand up to these destructive elements. The result is that the American people have been held hostage, and you, Mr. President, have chosen not just to negotiate with those perpetrating this extortion—setting a precedent for how this can and should unfold in the future—but also to give in to basically all of their demands.
In fact, you put up so little fight that there is serious question as to whether you even disagreed with them, or whether you were really just a plant from their party all along. That sounds like a conspiracy theory when said aloud, and yet when I’ve heard people suggest it, I have nothing to answer. The facts are consistent with such a scenario, and frankly it explains the facts better than the story you're telling. But either way, you most certainly did not ever represent the interests of the American people who elected you, and particularly the Democrats, in any but the most feeble and incompetent ways. You yourself have been heard to say “elections have consequences,” or had you perhaps forgotten. Your energy seems to be 100% spent these days on pleasing the minority because you apparently, and quite arrogantly, assume that you have the Democrats in a position where they have nowhere to run.
The ordinary standard of a “fair deal” is that if both parties are willing to voluntarily sign a contract in a free market, the deal is fair. Either party could walk away, but they choose to sign. They aren’t signing under duress.
But here the Republicans have not negotiated such a fair deal. There was no option to just walk away, and they knew it. They coupled a “must do” action (raising the debt limit) with another action that serves their partisan political agenda, such that the signing of any deal now is done under duress.
It was an engineered crisis that never existed in the first place. The debt needs to be resolved but we have longer than overnight to do it. Credible economists even argue that we should take a while to resolve the debt issue, rather than rushing to cut too much too quickly. But the proof that there was no urgency to solve the spending issue today is implicit in this pathetic compromise, when it’s acknowledged that no decision on how to cut the debt will be made just now anyway; rather, a committee will be formed. Forget what the committee will do for one moment. It's the fact that the committee will not report its results today, but rather by November, that tells you all you need to know. There was time to resolve that matter separately. All that had to be done today was to raise the debt limit.
And you, Mr. President, have the power to do that unilaterally to avoid catastrophe. You do not have to say that the Congress, taken hostage, is the last word on the matter. But you have chosen not to exercise your authority as Executive. Rather, you have chosen to make the White House either subservient to or complicit in the actions of this rogue Tea Party action.
A political coup has been successfully executed because you opened the front door to the United States and put out the welcome mat. You had the option of pushing back, but you did not push back. Rather, you offered more than was asked for and now sound all miffed it was turned down. Now, because it was, you're bargaining down to a plan that is pretty much everything the Republicans wanted and nothing the majority of the American people wanted or needed.
You could have invoked, and can still invoke, the 14th amendment. That would fix the debt limit problem. Poof. One sentence and it’s fixed. Congress usually does the honors, but to protect the Constitution you were elected to defend, you can do it yourself. Nothing in the Constitution suggests that you are prohibited form acting to assure that this is so. And your position as Chief Executive veritably implies that it is your role to act in single-minded fashion to handle emergencies that a slow, deliberative body such as the Congress is not equipped to handle propertly. That is why there is a Chief Executive.
You then could still tomorrow launch the commission needed to do this budget deal. The only difference is that if you launch it tomorrow, when we are not as a nation under duress in the discussions it would have. That would change the balance of power back to the majority of Americans. That’s a good thing, right? You are actually thinking that’s a good thing? Because I see no evidence that you do. I see evidence that you want the triggers and the hard choices. You didn’t lament that this would hurt the economy and jobs, but rather lamented that you wanted even more sweeping change than either party was asking for. You are so caught up in yourself that you have seemed to forget who elected you or what the economy needs.
I hereby call on you to still do the right thing and simply raise the debt ceiling, ignoring this other alleged deal, which is not a proper deal since it was negotiated under duress. If you think it’s a fair deal, ask that the same deal be signed tomorrow when we’re not under duress. Then you’ll see.
We must restore balance to the political debate and send a strong signal to the Tea Party and the Republicans it holds hostage that these strong-arm tactics are not going to be tolerated in a political system that is intended to be driven by majority rule. They are not the majority, and it your job to make sure they know it.
I’ll close with a discussion by Senator Tom Harkin on Saturday. It’s a little over fifteen minutes of your time, but it’s a worthy speech. You should take a moment to listen. Really.
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