President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner made their pitches to the American public on Monday night. Both men made valid points. Both men engaged in political posturing.
It’s time for them to stop talking to us and to engage each other in the spirit of cooperation that the President cited in his presentation. The ideologues in both parties are not going to be happy with the final result, since they are invested in dogma, not compromise. The Tea Party types on the Republican side would rather see the nation slip into default to prove a point. The entitlement-loving lefties on the Democratic side would rather look the other way as the nation continues to spend far beyond its means.
Either way, people are going to be unhappy. That is the nature of compromise.
So it is incumbent on leaders to lead, not to calculate, not to maneuver, not to grandstand. If the nation does default on Aug. 2, chances are good that the American public will pin the blame on both parties, rather than identify a single villain. Voters simply are not engaged enough in Beltway politics to sort out the details of the debt ceiling. All they know—and, frankly, this is the root of the matter—is that their elected representatives seem incapable of governing. That’s bad for all concerned.
It is instructive to compare the paralysis in Washington with the energy exhibited in Albany over the past seven months. In New York, a governor and leaders of the state legislature understood that the vitality of state government depended on tackling, rather than evading, hard issues. They did so through negotiation and compromise.
It is a measure of changing times that Albany can now teach Washington a thing or two about governance.
It’s time for the Beltway crowd to stop giving speeches. We already know what’s at stake. If the worst happens, there will be plenty of blame to spread around.