As the debt ceiling dispute began to seem like a crisis, David Frum made an interesting observation.
Frum, a former speechwriter in the Administration of George Bush, Jr., said recently that by his habit of caving in to the demands of Republicans, Obama has set the stage for the U.S. government to default on its obligations for the first time in history.
While I don’t usually agree with the viewpoints of Republicans, I must admit that Frum has a valid point in this instance. There is nearly as great a disparity between the record and the rhetoric of the Obama Administration as there was in the Administration of George Bush, Jr., although for very different reasons.
From the beginning of the Obama Administration until Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives, the Administration followed the same pattern.
First, Obama would propose legislation. Next, the Democratic members of the House would schedule hearings in the appropriate committees, where they would invariably accept some Republican input and incorporate this into the legislation. The House would then pass the bill without a single Republican vote. The bill would then go to the Senate, where it would die. The exception was the Healthcare Reform Act, when the House passed the Senate version.
Although Harry Reid is quite possibly the weakest Senate Majority Leader in history, one can’t put all of the blame on him. After all, he saw Democratic House members fighting hard for the legislation the administration said it wanted only to have the administration make unilateral concessions to the Republicans and leave those hardworking House members twisting in the wind. Many lost their jobs by fighting for and voting for legislation at the Administration’s request that never became law.
The Obama administration is probably the only administration in history (certainly the only one in my lifetime) with a “negotiating” procedure that operates as follows: First, the Administration proposes legislation to tackle some problem or other. Next, the Republicans scream that the legislation represents “socialism” and insinuate that Obama was born in Kenya and educated by Islamic terrorists at a madrassa in Indonesia. The Administration follows this by proposing “negotiations.” Then, before the “negotiations” begin, the Administration unilaterally concedes 60 percent of what is in the bill (and usually 100 percent of what is good in the bill). In exchange for the concession, the administration gets the contempt of the Republicans. In the “negotiations” that follow, the Administration caves in on three quarters of the remaining 40 percent of the bill that is still at stake, to obtain a total of 10 percent of a bill.
The now-worthless legislation then proceeds to the Senate, where it might pass unless the Republicans decide to appeal to their base by using the filibuster to kill it. By this point, it makes little difference if it passes or not, except to an administration eager to claim that it got “legislation” passed and thus “solved” a problem.
A Democratic Senator recently went around to the Republican Senators individually and asked each one what he thought the White House would do about the debt ceiling situation. He reported back that “to a man” the Republicans said Obama would cave. Should anyone be surprised? Given the record of this administration, why shouldn’t the Republicans think that if they refuse to budge an inch, the Obama Administration will “negotiate” with itself until they get everything they want? Meanwhile, the days continue to pass as Aug. 2 looms closer.
Paul Schwietering is a resident of Union Township.