Presidential strength is determined by a wide variety of factors: popularity in the polls, cooperation from/with both houses of Congress, ability to present a strong legislative agenda, budgeting prowess, and international support/popularity are a few examples. Our current selection has been called a variety of superlatives for an amazing variety of reasons: soft on immigration, strong on attempting to raise taxes, weakening the office for his decision to push for military strikes on Syria, dangerous for his health care legislation. But one of the most salient topics about which much has been made and for which most other legislative themes have been forgone this week is the irrevocable impending collision with the debt ceiling scheduled in short order.
Both sides of this argument have staked out their territory: the Blue team – in charge of the Senate, also the Executive Chamber – have already dismissed approval of the Red team’s bill attempting to either defund or postpone full implementation of the most significant Act in decades. They do not like it not they don’t. They will not pass it, no they won’t. The Red team in contrast has claimed it will hold America’s economy hostage if they don’t get their way by refusing to cooperate with debt ceiling negotiations.
Except that, in reality, they can’t. Not on FOX, not with a soap box, not on the Hill, not by refusing to pay the bills. Because at the end of the day, authority for the debt ceiling lies with the Executive Chamber. That reality, unfortunately, escapes the entirety of that side of the aisle. If, in point of fact, the president – now in his second term with three years left and a second round of mid-term elections upcoming – wanted to bravely and unflinchingly demonstrate the very exacting power of the presidency, now would be the perfect time.
He could maneuver the debt ceiling all on his own.
Such a maneuver would prevent a government shutdown, prevent millions of already skittish workers from losing out on pay, alleviate some of the more conspicuous market gyrations, and save the president’s hallmark healthcare legislation all at once.
There is a juicy detail being overlooked here which is a well known secret of public affairs: sometimes you hand the other side a win on purpose to make them look good. The entirety of the pundit-tree from Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin have all foreseen, proclaimed, and bemoaned the outright collapse and final demise of the Republican party, Koch brothers and Roger Ailes be damned. This very same peculiarity is evident in the current exchange – despite their best efforts, this battle is undoubtedly not going the way they want it to, which in fact, may be on purpose.
Like a prize fighter throwing his last bout in the ring, down he goes, much to the dismay and displeasure of all those with money riding on him. All their hopes and dreams dashed on the craggy rocks of disappointment. But much like that metaphorical prize fighter, there is no alternative purse attached to them staying in the fight, they only receive greater winnings if they drop to the canvass and go out for the count.
So too with the GOP. It is impossible for them to now walk back from their positions on immigration, tax structure, war, women’s health, voting rights, health care, the security state, net neutrality, fossil fuels, education, and overt public corruption. Their rebranding mission failed before it even got started – much to Reince Priebus’ dismay.- and now, the sole option available to them is to entirely implode. however, the more they can blame external operators – read Obama strengthening the presidency – the easier it will be for them to take the fall.
What they will do after that is where the real discussion should be.