The crucial question: why didn't Obama invoke the 14th amendment and seize the day?


For me, the crucial question for President Obama is why he didn't take the advice of former President Bill Clinton, Rep. John Garamendi, and others who urged him to invoke  the 14th Amendment and its “validity of the public debt” point and then unilaterally raise the debt ceiling.

The Tea Party Republicans had manufactured a phony crisis with the debt ceiling, linked it to their wrongway issue of tax reduction, and then held the nation hostage to their  maniacal demands for trillions of  cuts to domestic programs.
Armageddon was nigh.

Yet Obama, after caving on single payer health care, the public option,  restoring the Bush tax cuts, on and on, and after negotiating  the debt crisis on Republican turf with many of their arguments and much of their language, refused to take the one crucial  step that could have saved the day for him  and the country that will suffer further under Teapartyism.
Sure, Republicans would have screamed bloody murder. Tough.  They  forced Obama to the brink,  and public opinion would have supported him fighting it out for once and  taking this understandable position of executive authority under these draconian circumstances.

The legal experts I read and heard on television said that they didn't think that Congress could have  been able to subvert this decision.  And consider the campaign issue: Obama took on the Teaparty Republicans and beat them at their own game. Instead, he allowed them to win the battle and allowed Speaker of the House John Boehner to claim that he had gotten 98 per cent of what he wanted.

And what did Obama and the Democrats get?  The prospect of  a Republican tax-cutting disaster moving in agonizing stages that will most likely deepen the recession, stunt job growth even further,  keep unemployment rising, and give the Republicans an armory full of ammunition to knock him out.

Shakespeare has a phrase for this in his sonnet 73:  Obama and his adminstration were  “consumed by that with which it was nourished by.”  B3

P.S. Paul Krugman was right. The MSNBC lineup has done a wonderful job of covering the crisis and laying out the issues with passion and not Beltway “objectivity."  Cbris Matthews, Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell and the guy who started it all, Keith Olberman now on Current TV on Channel 170 in San Francisco. Thomm Hartmann and Randi Rhodes did good work on Green 960.


There's a big controversy about the meaning of the "public debt" clause of the 14th amendment to the constitution. Scholars are all over the place as to its original intent.

Had Pres. Obama invoked this language to get his way, he would have provoked a constitutional crisis. That might be a good strategy, anyway, for a president who is powerful, popular, and effective.

But such a move would only have weakened Obama. He would have yet another massive fight on his hand, in the courts, with Congress, and with voters, without having much clout to make his case among any of these constituencies.

Let's be reasonable.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Aug. 02, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

Obama looked bad enough for being passive throughout this process, but at least he had the sense not to try and trump Congress, the people and the Constitution.

Posted by Harry on Aug. 03, 2011 @ 6:08 am

The 14th Amendment requires the government to pay their debts - it doesn't say anything about authorizing them to run up new debts. So it can stop default, but not partial shutdown (like skipping Social Security checks and Federal paychecks.)

But the Debt Ceiling isn't in the Constitution; it's just a budget law passed by Congress. Obama could have argued that a newer budget authorizing more spending than revenue obviously authorizes more debt, so it must override the debt ceiling.

Posted by Bill on Aug. 03, 2011 @ 7:46 am

The joy of impracticality, that's what the Ayatollah Brugmann and Steven T. Jones have in common.

The Ayatollah wanted Pres. Obama to invoke the 14th amendment to impose a solution on the deficit crisis.

Steven T. Jones wanted Dennis Kucinich to carpet-bag to SF to run against Nancy Pelosi for Congress.

Ever wonder why our local progressive sect is foundering?

Any guesses?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Aug. 04, 2011 @ 7:50 am

I will not vote for Obama or any other presidential candidate that will not invoke the 14th Amendment. The present debt limit statute is unconstitutional, and it is doubtful that even a conservative Supreme Court would disagree. It makes this fiasco nothing but political theatre in which Obama finally capitulates at the last minute. Spineless little man with a good heart!

Posted by Guest Bullone on Aug. 05, 2011 @ 9:38 am

The 14th Amendment requires the government to pay off existing debts - it doesn't say anything about letting the Executive Branch incur new debts.

The Constitution gives the House of Representatives the job of raising revenues, gives Congress the power to borrow money, and forbids the Treasury to spend money that Congress hasn't appropriated. Enacting a debt limit is solidly within the constitutional powers of Congress, and the Courts would agree (if they thought anybody had standing to sue.) But the fact that spending more money than the revenues you raise and the cash you have on hand means you're that borrowing the rest comes from the Laws of Arithmetic, which are somewhat more fundamental. And the Debt Ceiling isn't anything magical, it's just a law they made and can change - too bad the Democrats didn't fix it before the 2010 elections, when they had a majority in both houses of Congress.

I wouldn't vote for any President who thinks that declaring war is one of his powers, not Congress's. Nor would I vote for a President who thinks that the executive branch can override Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments using the excuse of National Security (or of "being scared that the Republicans will make Really Nasty Speeches if he treats the prisoners in Gitmo Constitutionally", or of "that Muslim cleric makes Really Nasty Speeches and the CIA says they could assassinate him.")

Posted by Bill Stewart on Aug. 05, 2011 @ 1:59 pm

What a load of nonsense. Barack Obama upped the non-event to crisis stature and did so deliberately in order to create the 'blue ribbion' Super Commission which will begin gutting a safety net to a family near you any day now.
I won't vote for him, he's a fake. He's not weak, he's doing what he wants.
MSNBC is a joke where not one evening pass with the hosts not 'doctoring' quotes or facts as has been well documented by Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler.
I understand Fox News is the same but, guess what, I don't watch it and I don't care what it does.
On the left, I do care what we do. Aping Fox News was never the answer to 'winning.' All it did was bring us down into the mud with other pigs. I miss the days when Democrats cared about Social Security, when they cared about LGBT rights (and didn't put homophobes onstage at campaign events the way Barack did repeatedly last go round), when they cared about the truth, and when they didn't mistake gas bag talk show hosts for journalists.
Republicans dumbed down 1/2 of America in the 90s. Now my side steps up to do the same.

Posted by Guest Liang on Aug. 16, 2011 @ 8:42 pm