With the news that House Republicans and Speaker John Boehner were going to agree to a temporary increase in the nation’s debt ceiling, thus avoiding America’s first-ever default and a likely financial catastrophe, the financial markets went up strongly. Oh, most observers figured Boehner would have to blink in his staredown with President Obama, given that polls have been showing that most Americans blame Republicans for the standoff that has shut down the government and threatened the country’s financial stability.
Still, with the tea party extreme in the House GOP able to scare the speaker without even shouting “Boo!” there has been some nervousness that the tea partyers (who aren’t nearly as scared about default because they don’t understand it) might indeed take the country over the cliff in the name of bringing down the president they hate, even if the economy had to go with him.
Boehner, his ridiculous rhetoric to the contrary, has always known better and in his recent appearances blustering at the president has seemed, to use an old North Carolina expression, as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
Generations of contentious Congresses have routinely raised the nation’s debt ceiling, which allows the United States to pay creditors such as Japan and China, regardless of the party breakdown on Capitol Hill or the political persuasion of the occupant of the White House. But Republican tea partyers are driven by a deep hatred of this president and a nonsensical distrust of government in general. They’ve never been crazy about Boehner, a veteran of Congress who, absent the tea party influence, would long ago have made the necessary deals with the White House without demanding the president give up his health care reform initiative.
Boehner also knows that in the mid-1990s, when Republicans shut down the government to slap President Bill Clinton in the face, it was they who felt the sting and it was they who dropped in the polls and ultimately lost their leadership positions.
And contrary to what Republicans are claiming about growing deficits, the 2013 deficit is forecast to be under $1 trillion.
It just seems the tea party, a minority of Republicans after all, possesses the peculiar ability to intimidate Boehner even as it stands behind anti-government notions that are utterly preposterous.
This confrontation over the debt ceiling and the government shutdown sadly won’t be the last such crises. It is as if Republicans want to continually batter this president and this presidency, to render President Obama weak and ineffective. Such assaults weaken the country itself and certainly its standing with other nations. If the tea partyers were paying attention to anyone’s rhetoric but their own, and if they put the country’s interest against their narrow political interests, they would understand that.
The American people do understand, which is why GOP approval ratings are in the tank, where they belong.