Saturday, July 30, 2011

It isn’t about the debt limit or the economy, its about winning

Some years ago I agreed to testify as an expert witness on behalf of a defendant in a lawsuit. The subject matter of the litigation is unimportant. Before the case was to be heard, I spent an afternoon in the New York offices of the attorney defending the case reviewing my testimony. This was my first expert witness experience. The way the attorney - he was also a casual friend - introduced our discussion has left an indelible impression.

“Trials are not about justice,” he emphasized, “trials are about winning!”

It is hard not to believe that a similar rationale explains what appears to be Republican intransigence in the current debt limit debate. Consider the following:

[1] Winning the next presidential election is - understandably and appropriately - an overarching Republican goal.

[2] That the state of the economy is critical in determining the outcome of presidential elections is well known. If the economy turns around, this will reflect favorably on President Obama, enhancing his reelection chances. The worse the economy performs; the worse Americans suffer as a result, the more likely a Republican candidate will emerge victorious in 2012.

[3] Expert consensus that an American default will adversely affect both the global economy and the US economy is overwhelming.

[4] Whatever the short term costs, they are worth incurring in order to ensure the defeat of President Obama or, if he should not be renominated, another Democratic nominee.

As I said, the current debate is not about the debt limit. It isn’t about the deficit. It isn’t about the economy. It isn’t about the well-being of Americans. It isn’t about America’s international standing. Its about ensuring that the Obama Presidency is seen to be a failure. In short, it’s about winning.

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