Rewarding the Republicans for their hostage-taking — aside from being bad policy — is disastrous politics. By caving to a bunch of extremely unpopular ideologues, Obama looks weak and feckless, not like “the adult in the room.”
Here’s the thing: when children throw temper tantrums, grown-ups put them in timeout — they don’t appease them with candy.
The President seems to hold Ronald Reagan in esteem, but it’s very difficult to imagine Reagan allowing a Democratic House to hold the government hostage for months on end and threaten to send the US economy over a cliff. I’m not saying I admire Reagan for firing the air traffic controllers, or that it was the right thing to do, but he acted decisively and had public opinion on his side. And in doing so, he advanced an ideological goal of his party.
Bill Clinton, who is on record as saying he’d invoke the 14th, did not cave when Gingrich threw his temper tantrum — and the public rewarded him with a second term. He, too, made his stand on ideological grounds.
As with the case of the health care bill and the stimulus, Obama has allowed Congress to dictate the terms — and neither turned out well. Of course, this manufactured debt ceiling crisis is worse, since he’s allowed the opposing party to do so, even though they control only the House. In effect, he’s made the Tea Party caucus of the House the de facto president.
Sometimes leaders have to lead.