Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Let's hope the Buck Shot stops here...

President Harry Truman famously had a sign on his desk that read "The Buck Stops Here"meaning the Washington tradition of shirking responsibilities would stop with the Office of the President, where the big, difficult decisions would have to be made. As we face a looming debt default and threatened impeachment efforts against President Obama, it seems we're in a situation where the buck and the BS have to stop somewhere.

At this point the prospect of raising the debt ceiling and re-opening the government appears bleak, though I still hold out hope for last-minute heroics from more level-headed conservatives. In light of this, we have to consider what could happen if the debt ceiling is not raised.



Congress failing to raise the debt ceiling is pretty much a textbook example of "passing the buck" to President Obama. It will present him with a dilemma with regard to his oath to "preserve, protect and defend"  the Constitution: is he obligated to respect Congress' "power of the purse" and allow the US government to go into default OR is he obligated to invoke the 14th amendment and honor the US debt in the absence of congressional authorization.




Section 4 of the 14th amendment holds that the legally incurred debt of the US "shall not be questioned," so presumably President Obama would have constitutional support should he ignore the standing debt limit and order the Treasury to continue guaranteeing payments on the national debt.

An insightful discussion of the parallels between the situation that produced the 14th amendment and our current situation can be found in a New Yorker Magazine article by Hendrik Hertzberg. He reasons that things may very well come to the point where the President upholds the debt on the basis of the 14th amendment, and he believes the President would come out ahead in such a situation.

Hertzberg mentions that invoking the 14th amendment could mean impeachment by the House of Representatives. This seems ridiculous, but is actually quite possible given the comments already being made by fringe republicans, including fmr. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst. He also points out there would almost certainly be no conviction by the Senate. In fact, Hertzberg thinks, and I agree, such an impeachment would only bolster the President by showing the fullness of Tea Party/GOP absurdity and unjustified animosity in attacking a man who saved the world from a US debt default.

I'm not at the point where I'm hoping for a last-ditch impeachment that signals the death of any hope for the return of a rational and politically viable GOP, but I wouldn't be entirely surprised if these lunatic Tea Partiers push me to that point.

Whatever happens in the end, we can be confident that the buck must stop somewhere, so let's hope some form of debt ceiling deal is reached and the buck stops here.



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