Joe Conason (born January 25, 1954) is an American journalist, author and political commentator. He writes a column for Salon.com and has written a number of books, including Big Lies (2003), which addresses what he says are myths spread about liberals by conservatives. He currently is editor-in-chief at The National Memo, a new political newsletter and website.
Liberal policies made America the freest, wealthiest, most successful and most powerful nation in human history. Conservatism in power always threatens to undo that national progress, and is almost always frustrated by the innate decency and democratic instincts of the American people…
The above quote comes from Joe Conason’s 2003 New York Times Bestseller, Big Lies.
It appears that the Republican attack machine’s vitriolic approach to politics by barely compromising across the aisle with Democrats, inter alia, may have reached it’s peak during the Clinton Administration and has carried on to this day with perhaps even more vitriol and much less compromise.
As America lurches toward new and unfamiliar status as a nation that defaults on its debts, commentators around the world are wondering how the democratic government that was once the most admired in the world — for many reasons — is now so “dysfunctional,” to use the polite term. But the truth is that the entire U.S. government is not dysfunctional. Much of the government functions well enough or better, and even the members of the troubled U.S. Senate seem to be trying, a little late, to deal with the problem before us.
No, dysfunctional is the too-polite term for the House of Representatives, specifically its dominant tea party Republicans, who can be described in far less dainty psychological terms. Even the most extreme Republican partisans in the Senate seem to realize that their House colleagues, seized by some combination of ideology, madness and pig ignorance, are propelling the country and the world toward economic chaos.
Of course, the tea party Republicans insist that no such thing will ever happen — the warnings from economists, business leaders, financiers and public officials are merely so much “scare talk.”
When President Obama says that he won’t be able to send out Social Security and Veterans Administration checks or meet the nation’s obligations on Treasury debt come Aug. 2, he is just trying to frighten his opponents into giving up their principles. They don’t accept the idea that we have to pay for financial obligations already incurred — or that the rising interest rates caused by default will make future deficits much deeper.
But they don’t have to believe the president to understand that the threat posed by default is real. They could listen to ultra-conservative senators like Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. — members of the Gang of Six/Seven whose own profound ideological hostility to Obama and the Democrats still leaves space for prudence.
Former President Bill Clinton would invoke the 14th Amendment – “without hesitation, and force the courts to stop me,” he says – to raise the debt ceiling if he were in President Barack Obama’s shoes, with the deadline to raise the limit just two weeks away.
“I think the Constitution is clear and I think this idea that the Congress gets to vote twice on whether to pay for [expenditures] it has appropriated is crazy,” Clinton said in an interview with journalist Joe Conason.
Clinton said he would turn to the Constitution “if it came to that,” but doesn’t think that Obama will need to. “It looks to me like they’re going to make an agreement, and that’s smart,” he said.
Obama has sidestepped direct questioning about invoking a clause in the amendment to the Constitution that has been interpreted by some to mean that the president has the authority to take all necessary steps to maintain the good credit of the United States. But a lawyer for the Treasury Department has publicly refuted that interpretation, saying that Secretary Timothy Geithner has “never argued that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows the president to disregard the statutory debt limit.”
Clinton said that raising the debt ceiling “is necessary to pay for appropriations already made.” Congressional Republicans, he said, “can’t say, ‘Well, we won the last election and we didn’t vote for some of that stuff, so we’re going to throw the whole country’s credit into arrears.”
The former president also noted that he could have faced a similar crisis during his own time in office, when congressional Republicans weighed blocking a debt ceiling hike. Republicans “did think about doing that … and I knew they were thinking about it,” but they decided against it because “they didn’t want to get caught” in a position where they might be seen as attacking Clinton’s two immediate predecessors, both Republicans.
“The reason that raising the debt limit is so unpopular is that people think you’re voting to keep [increasing] deficit spending, instead of voting to honor obligations that were already incurred,” he said. “I think [the Gingrich Republicans] figured I’d be smart enough to explain to the American people that they were refusing to pay for the expenses they had voted for when Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were president. And that would make ‘em look bad.”