When the formerly responsible Republican Party decided to behave like a suicide bomber, threatening the global economy with catastrophe if Biden didn’t agree with at least some of their demands for spending cuts, he had to come to terms with the terrorists. If he didn’t, here is the scenario that would have played out:
- The United States would have defaulted on its debt for the first time in history.
- Millions of jobs would have been in jeopardy.
- Inflation would have ramped up.
- Stock markets would have tanked.
- Benefits earned by Social Security, Medicare and Veteran recipients would have stopped.
- Financial institutions would have failed.
- The U.S. would have gone into recession.
- It would have cost the government much more to borrow because foreign investors would have demanded higher rates of return, given the higher risks they would have incurred.
While I would have preferred that Biden invoke Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which states that “the debts of the United States shall not be questioned,” he came to the conclusion that, despite the unambiguous wording of Section 4, applying that would be too risky given a reactionary Supreme Court majority only too eager to add fuel to the neo-fascist fire Republicans are fanning. Moreover, he perhaps correctly foresaw that the interregnum between invoking Section 4 and its interpretation by the Supreme Court would lead to worried markets, banks and employers who might not wait to throw the country and planet into economic turmoil regardless.
Republicans quite rightly calculated that come November 2024, the voting public would blame the sitting president for the economic ills it had suffered due to a debt default. Suicide bombers have nothing to lose once they commit their lives to their task.
While we can gnash our teeth over this latest shameful outrage perpetrated by McCarthy and his band of political incendiaries, it is both wrong and deeply insulting to accuse Biden of succumbing to “Stockholm Syndrome,” a victim who identifies with and empathizes with their captor and their goals. He managed an untenable situation as well as it could possibly be managed. For that, he deserves a great deal of credit. It is not a stretch to say that he saved the country and the planet.
The one criticism of Biden that is warranted is that his communications team once again did a face plant. While McCarthy was out demagoguing to the media umpteen times a day during the negotiations, the president’s team took a vow of silence, thus allowing the Republicans’ misleading messaging to receive top billing.
This is a pattern with the Biden comms team. I asked several generally well-informed and politically aware individuals to tell me what they knew about the landmark legislation Biden had gotten through Congress: the American Rescue Plan; the CHIPS Act, the Infrastructure and Jobs Act; and the Inflation Reduction Act. Their responses to the most successful legislative initiatives in 60 years were along the following lines: “Something to do with fixing bridges?” If even these voters are uninformed about Biden’s remarkable accomplishments, you can understand why his poll numbers are feeble. People simply don’t know what he has achieved. That’s on his communications team.
There is still time to fix this. Biden needs a communications course correction ASAP.
Absent such an overhaul, he—and we—will risk a very ominous outcome in November 2024.
June 2, 2023