Skip to main content

GOP holding U.S. economy hostage on debt

By David Rothkopf, Special to CNN
updated 11:38 AM EST, Tue January 15, 2013
President Obama speaks at Monday's news conference, where he warned against playing politics with the debt ceiling.
President Obama speaks at Monday's news conference, where he warned against playing politics with the debt ceiling.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • David Rothkopf: Obama challenged congressional GOP on debt ceiling
  • Rothkopf says Boehner and House GOP are bizarrely holding nation hostage
  • He says they must know it will hurt them, but continue; want budget cuts, but not to defense
  • Rothkopf: Playing politics with debt ceiling must be permanently out of bounds

Editor's note: David Rothkopf is CEO and editor-at-large of the FP Group, publishers of Foreign Policy magazine, and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

(CNN) -- President Obama threw down the gauntlet to congressional Republicans at his press conference on Monday. He will not, he asserted forcefully, allow the United States' credit rating be held hostage by hard-liners demanding budget cuts "or else..."

In short, the president's message was that he would not negotiate with fiscal terrorists.

He may have sounded adamant and unbending to some. But his position was hardly out of place. Speaker John Boehner and the Republicans in the House of Representatives are holding a gun to the head of the American economy and threatening to pull the trigger if the president doesn't bend to their will.

David Rothkopf
David Rothkopf

On some level, they must realize that allowing the United States to default on financial obligations that Congress itself racked up would not only sow chaos in the financial markets and reignite the recession, but also sign the death warrant for the modern Republican Party.

If the GOP -- already a party at odds with science, history, math, women, senior citizens, the poor and minority populations -- were to willfully and recklessly play politics with the full faith and credit of the United States, it would virtually ensure that by 2014, Democrats would retake the majority in the House of Representatives and expand their edge in the Senate. This could create a nightmare for many on the right: an Obama presidency in which Democrats could press through their full agenda with little resistance.

Even the most rabid Republican partisans must recognize that they are playing with fire.

News: Obama: We aren't a deadbeat nation

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



They are overreaching in part to help redeem what was widely seen as a defeat for them in the tax deal that was struck at the beginning of the year -- the slight tax increase that was approved for the top 2% of the population. Of course, it is baffling why any among them would so focus on that small increase and neglect the fact that, with Obama's assistance, they managed to do what George W. Bush could not and make Bush's tax plan permanent. No matter, the posturing of Boehner & Co. is designed to make them appear resolute. Unfortunately, it only succeeds in making them look demented.

They say growth is the key to balancing the budget, but are pursuing the one policy most likely to derail it. They say they want to balance the budget to improve America's credit rating and international standing, but they seem willing to do more to damage either than any other Congress in memory. They say they want to force budget cuts but won't touch defense spending, the largest and most bloated area of discretionary spending in the budget.

Playing chicken with debt ceiling
Obama: No ransom for Republicans
Obama: Debt showdown would harm economy

They seem to assume that the president will offer some cuts and that they will be able to say their toughness won the day. They think the American people will believe their use of the debt ceiling as a cudgel was principled and perhaps even courageous. They will offer themselves up as protectors of the national economic well-being.

Opinion: Senate holds key to fixing Washington

This is a lot like a kidnapper expecting to be seen as a hero for releasing his captive. Both parties bear plenty of responsibility for getting America in the fiscal mess we are in today. Both will have to compromise to achieve real progress. Taxes will have to rise more. Defense will have to be cut. Entitlements will have to be sweepingly reformed. Real compromise and courage and principles will be required to a greater extent than either party has embraced or even publicly discussed.

But just because neither party has done all it should, that does not mean both are equally responsible for this bizarre and dangerous episode. As the president rightly asserted, and as reasonable people in either party must acknowledge, playing politics with the debt ceiling must be put permanently out of bounds.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Rothkopf.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:47 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Jimmy Carter's message about the need to restore trust in public officials is a vital one, decades after the now 90-year-old he first voiced it
updated 5:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Ford Vox says mistakes and missed opportunities along the line to a diagnosis of Ebola in a Liberian man have put Dallas residents at risk of fatal infection
updated 6:21 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Pepper Schwartz says California is trying, but its law requiring step-by-step consent is just not the way hot and heavy sex proceeds on college campuses
updated 4:48 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Mike Downey says long-suffering fans, waiting for good playoff news since 1985, finally get something to cheer about
updated 5:39 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Steve Israel saysJohn Boehner's Congress and the tea party will be remembered for shutting down government one year ago
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Yep. You read the headline right, says Peter Bergen, writing on the new government that stresses national unity
updated 11:24 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrators are but the latest freedom group to be abandoned by the Obama administration, says Mike Gonzalez
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
updated 10:55 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT