A New York Times Op-Ed piece today by DavidP. Barash suggests that we look to the behavior of rogue elephants to understand the posturing of Republican zealots intent on getting their way against all logic. The debt ceiling and budget debate is a high-wire public relations drama where an irresistible force meets an immovable object – somehow, someway, sometime something has to give.
It’s also a very public example of getting locked into a position that you can’t back out of. In his last address to the nation, Obama tried to throw Boehner a bone by stressing the importance of compromise and urging voters to call their congressional reps and telling them to cut a deal and be done with it.
No such luck.† Positions have hardened as we get ready to go over the cliff. Good PR is about finding opportunity in adversity, taking the heat when you’re wrong, and finding the positive in even the most troubling situations. We’re attracted to rebels, but not when they can do us real harm.
If this goes on much longer the rating agencies might deduce that we’re an irreparably dysfunctional government that can’t be relied on to pay its bills. Once we’re downgraded we all lose and we have a deeper hole to dig out of. That’s the logical deduction. But this is not a logical fight.
Obama’s ace in the hole is that he can invoke the 14th amendment and raise the debt ceiling on his own. Bill Clinton has said that is something he would do without hesitation “and force the courts to stop me.” That would be a rogue move – maybe the only option given this scenario.
†…. given the Republicansí continued insistence on an unobtainable wish list of spending cuts and constitutional amendments, itís fair to conclude that Mr. Obama is facing the political equivalent of an elephant in must ó a player who simply wonít play the game. – David P. Barash