Wineke: Debt Ceiling Crisis Has Already Done Damage

Published On: Jul 24 2011 04:04:29 AM CDT   Updated On: Jul 25 2011 01:57:00 AM CDT

By Bill Wineke Special to Channel 3000

I have no idea how the nation's debt ceiling crisis will be resolved but I do know that it has already done vast damage to our country.

What this crisis has done is to diminish the power and prestige of the office of the president. Congressional leaders now feel comfortable mocking the president in public. Do we really think foreign leaders won't notice?

Remember a year or so ago when some idiot congressman shouted "you lie!" during a presidential speech to Congress? We thought it was shocking then. Now, the speaker of the House of Representatives feels no need to return a president's telephone calls.

To me, the most shocking development of the whole debate took place a few days ago when Sen. Tom Coburn predicted the president will sign any legislation Congress forwards to him.

"He's going to do what's necessary to fix the country and if he's presented with a bill, he's going to sign it," the Oklahoma Republican crowed.

Perhaps so. But what does it say about our society when a respected member of the Senate suggests it is acceptable behavior to blackmail the president? What does it mean to have a senator say that, if his fellow conservatives will only make credible their threat to destroy the American economy unless they get every single thing their billionaire puppeteers demand, they can make the president capitulate?

If Barack Obama is destroyed politically because he persists in trying to meet his opposition half-way and find compromises to issues that divide us, then we will all suffer for a long, long time to come.

Frankly, I don't think Obama can afford to give in to this blackmail. It's not that I'm worried about his reelection prospects. Defeated presidents still lead pretty good lives in this country. What I'm worried about is there are a lot of nasty people out in the world who wish this nation ill and if they get the idea America will back down any time the stakes are raised, then we will be in big trouble.

I don't even think the Republican Party can afford to have Obama back down.

If this blackmail succeeds the crazy wing of the party will just be emboldened to stomp its leadership even further into the ground. After all, why compromise when you can just strap an explosive vest around your leadership and threaten to detonate it if they give in on any detail?

Nor can the Republican Party really afford to let the country actually suffer through the budget cuts its wacko element insists are necessary. Once people see the results of those cuts, they just might remember who demanded them.

But, just because the nation can't afford to see Obama lose doesn't mean he can't lose.

He is up against a Congress that just allowed the Federal Aviation Administration to shut down because Democrats balked at destroying the unions representing many aviation workers.

He is opposed by some truly weird presidential hopefuls, including former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty who goes around boasting that, as governor, he created a government shutdown.

As I see it, there are just a couple of possibilities in play. One is that Obama and Speaker John Boehner have actually cut some secret deal and all this drama about telephone snubs is just a way to sell it to the Tea Party nut jobs. The other is that one of the nation's two major political parties really is willing to destroy the country to protect billionaire ideologues.

Either way, it's a hell of a way to run a country.