Audacity and the ‘legislative reality’ fallacy


“The legislation the President has asked for cannot pass the House. I’m happy to discuss these issues at the White House, but such discussions will be fruitless until the President recognizes economic and legislative reality.” – Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH), in a July 5, 2011, statement

Both Boehner and Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have used the phrase “legislative reality” a lot since President Obama’s press conference chastisement of the GOP’s Congressional leadership last week. It’s time for Republican legislators to get a lesson in the nature of reality, and the distinction between reality and choice.

Obama inaugural - Boehner
Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH) watches as President Obama takes his Oath of Office, Jan. 20, 2009. Who is following their oath to govern better? (Credit: Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo, U.S. Air Force)

While it is true that they have signed Grover Norquist‘s crazy, cutting-off-your-nose -to-spite-your-face pledge not to raise taxes, they have also sworn a Constitutional oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Under normal, rational consideration, shouldn’t that oath take precedence over some fealty to a couple of paragraphs of politically charged rhetoric that serves, not the country as a whole, but a small segment of well-off Americans who want to have power over the rest by having more money than the government? Or really, to buy the government out from under us?

For our Congressional representatives, in both houses, their Oath of Office is the reality. It is their charge, not their choice. Any promises, especially those made for purely political reasons, are irrelevant, and what’s worse, irresponsible, in a time of financial crisis.

Sadly, though, the ball does not rest in Congress’ court. The debt-limit is a crisis in play between the White House and Capitol Hill, with the West Wing doing all it can to deflect the the GOP’s political petulance. The president, spokesman Jay Carney told the press, Tuesday, insists that “leaders were elected to lead, to make hard choices, to compromise, and to take some flack for that compromise.”

The Republicans, though, insist that it is the president who is not engaged in the process, despite Obama’s protestations last week.

Given the GOP’s bias, it’s hard to take their accusations of President Obama’s lack of engagement seriously, but his choosing how deeply to wade into controversial issues, Affordable Care Act notwithstanding, has lacked the audacity he likes to be known for. He expects the system to work its will, as he did with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (which a court ordered, Wednesday, to be lifted immediately). That’s why he probably will not issue an Executive Order, based on the Fourteenth Amendment, to raise the debt ceiling.

Obama’s conundrum, in trying to fulfill his promise to be a president for all Americans, is that this is not the Congress we grew up with. This is an all or nothing group of legislators, who will disallow all logic and reason in order to have their own way on the economy – one that benefits the wealthy and super-wealthy, and believes that America’s working class must serve them. Wall Street, banks, multi-nationals, defense contractors, all believe that we owe them a blanket amnesty, because they make the country run. It’s a train of thought that has driven us into the dark tunnel in which we now find ourselves, and the only light on the other side is the presidential intervention the Republicans in Congress are calling for.

The only thing is, they want the president to lean on Senate Democrats to come over to the GOP side. That is what they mean when they say, “The president should show leadership.” Real leadership, though, would be for the president to tell them that if this were an actual corporation, they’d all be fired for keeping the company from moving forward on its obligations. A do-nothing Congress deserves to be fired. He can’t do that, though. This is not a country where we can sack the government and call for new elections.

We can, however, remind GOP lawmakers of their commitment to govern –  not work to get re-elected – to the best of their ability. As New York Times columnist, David Brooks, put it in his column, Tuesday, if the Republicans continue on their current course, voters “will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern. And they will be right. ”

– PBG

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2 thoughts on “Audacity and the ‘legislative reality’ fallacy

  1. Perry, your comment “crazy cutting-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face pledge not to raise taxes” misses the point and the reality that Boehner and McConnell are making to the President. The point is that our expenses went from 3.3% under President GW of GDP to over 9% of GDP under Obama. This is not a lack of revenue into the Treasury, it is excessive expense. Furthermore, adding additional tax burdens to any segment of the working population, much less to the segment that is paying 40% of the tax revenue is not a way to increase net tax collections. You also brought up the sworn duty to uphold the constitution. I agree. Please let me know where in the Constitution the entitlement programs are enumerated or equity positions in automobile companies or more to the point the Constitution demands all debts to be paid before all expenses. I could go on and respond to some of your other assertions like Presdient Obama trying to fulfill his promise to be a president for all Americans (absurd) or your belief that David Brook’s latest column was correct (unsupported), but I do not have the time. We can discuss over a beer.

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    1. That’s great. I’m thirsty.
      I don’t think I said that the Constitution said those things, but it does create a framework for putting legislation into law, which is what happened there. The stimulus has not been a failure. GM is now turning a profit and is on its own, more or less. There are many economists who argue that carrying a deficit in tough economic times is not the burden that the GOP tries to make it out to be, and even that we did not commit enough money to the recovery. Still, both revenue and spending changes should be a different conversation from raising the debt ceiling, which needs to happen, regardless of other economic concerns. It’s good to get these conversations going, but it’s crazy to hold our credit-worthiness hostage to politics. Brooks’ column asserted just that. Whether or not his assertion is supported is an arguable point, but he is a respected columnist with a respected opinion, which he is paid handsomely to share. I happen to agree with what he said this time.

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