As I read Kara Brandeisky’s article about how Bill Clinton avoided making concessions around the debt ceiling the moral of the story isn’t so much that refusal to negotiate let Clinton get away without making policy concessions. But it did let him get away without making policy concessions specifically linked to the debt ceiling. This had important implications going forward. Implications like—future Presidents were not expected to make concessions linked to the debt ceiling. My initial guess was that President Obama could and should pursue the same strategy, and leave ugly confrontations with Congress to the annual appropriations process where they belong.
Instead we have Keith Hennessy not only excited about the terms of the debt ceiling deal but gushing that “it also establishes a pattern for when the debt limit expires in 2013.”
This seems to me like a disaster for the country. Teaching the lesson that intransigence on the specific question of the debt ceiling brings about policy concessions seems to me to signal to all members of congress that they ought to spend the winter of 2012-2013 positioning themselves as intransigent on the debt ceiling. Now that “resolving the debt ceiling with a last minure compromise after months of threatened default” has become normalized as a way of doing business, it seems to me that we’re certain to face a situation sooner or later where the country winds up unable to pay its bills. This is going to be a lingering threat to good governance in the United States. And what’s particularly insane about it is that it came about because Republicans wanted to force the President to agree to entitlement reform and the President wanted to reform entitlements, and yet somehow they reached a deal that doesn’t reform entitlements! Now we get to play this over and over again.