Time for a 'This is Bullshit' Speech?

By James Fallows

Years ago I saw this headline in The Onion: "AMISH GIVE UP. 'This is Bullshit,' Elders Say."

It may be time for President Obama to give a "This is bullshit" speech about the debt-ceiling negotiations. Merrill Goozner has done an item worth noticing. It's a proposed Presidential Address next week about the folly of Congress failing to authorize an increase in the debt ceiling, to pay for programs and tax cuts that Congress has already voted to enact. The speech begins:

>>"My fellow Americans. It is my sad duty to report that the House of Representatives, having voted over many years to establish this vast enterprise we call the federal government, which touches each one of our lives, has under its new leadership decided not to pay for the programs it voted to create. I now must carry out my constitutional duties, which are twofold. I must honor the commitment that the United States government has made to millions of lenders here at home and abroad. And, I must carry out the programs that Congress has voted to create.

"Unfortunately, Congress' failure to raise the debt ceiling means there is insufficient money to do both. Therefore, I must do the best I can with the resources at hand, while not violating the constitution..."<<

And it builds to this conclusion about the steps the President will take to ensure that the nation honors its debts, as it has despite war, depression, and strife through the preceding two centuries:

>>"I am by law required to honor the obligations of the U.S. government, which were appropriated by Congress and signed into law by me and previous presidents. Even as I am distraught beyond words at the pain the irresponsible actions of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives have brought on the American people, I must do my duty.... <<

Or more plainly, "This is bullshit." That is how it looks to all the rest of the world, and to the great majority of Americans. When it came to intervening in Libya, President Obama decided to do what he considered proper first, and worry about the Constitutional niceties second. In this instance the case for acting in the nation's interest first, and letting people complain later -- if they want, even start impeachment hearings -- is much stronger. We are talking about a wholly unnecessary shock to the worldwide economic system and to America's short- and long-term prospects, brought about by a wholly artificial debt-ceiling law. I suggest that the White House speechwriting office take a look at Goozner's draft. Maybe the President too.

Update: Erik Tarloff does a very interesting compare-and-contrast between today's debt-ceiling standoff and the government-shutdown struggle between Bill Clinton and then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995. The bullshit theme appeared then too, as he points out.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/07/time-for-a-this-is-bullshit-speech/242404/