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You all may be forgetting that the scenario that President Obama is going through—the debt ceiling hostage threats and whatnot—is "been there done that" territory for Bill Clinton.

Here's what Bill Clinton said recently:

Former President Bill Clinton says that he would invoke the so-called constitutional option to raise the nation’s debt ceiling “without hesitation, and force the courts to stop me” in order to prevent a default, should Congress and the President fail to achieve agreement before the August 2 deadline.

Sharply criticizing Congressional Republicans in an exclusive Monday evening interview with The National Memo, Clinton said, “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.”

"Force the courts to stop me!" That's the kind of talk I like to hear from a Democrat!

While I like the Big Dog's political moxie (and who doesn't?!) ultimately it is Congress that will have to issue debt. The Big Dog is incorrect in thinking that it wouldn't have consequences. Using the 14th would still have the effect of raising interests pretty damn quick. Treasuries would remain super-investment grade, for sure. But risk certainly has to go up if presidents can raise debt at whim without the power of the purse (Congress) to back it up. See, the only reason U.S. Treasuries are as good as gold is because of the understood and almost unlimited power of Congress to tax. That is what backs up the promise to pay implicit in the bond.

But anybody who thinks Bill Clinton doesn't know a thing or two about debt ceiling negotiations needs to look back. John Boehner isn't the first person to consider holding the debt ceiling hostage as a negotiating tool. Newt Gingrich was the original.

In April of 1995, with the Ceiling at $4.9 trillion – where it had been since 1993 – Newt Gingrich appeared on This Week With David Brinkley and stated his willingness to force the government into default.

First came the Treasury warnings. Both Moody's and Standard & Poor issued warnings that they would downgrade the credit rating of the United States if there were no debt ceiling increase.

Both sides held firm. Simultaneously, Republicans, who controlled both houses of Congress, folded the debt ceiling increase in their Balanced Budget Bill. The goal was to blame President Clinton if there was a default on the debt. Republicans passed their bill with deep cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and included plenty of tax cuts for the rich. Here was Clinton's response:

"This budget is dead on arrival when it comes to the White House, and, if the price of any deal are cuts like these, my message is no deal."
        -- President Bill Clinton

It was plenty risky for Clinton too. He suffered in the polls for his unwillingness to compromise and took his share of the blame. The government was shut down, after all, and he was in charge. It was especially touch and go when he announced in February of 1996 that Social Security checks weren't going out in March.

But Clinton held firm, eventually conceding a paltry amount of budget and tax cuts, perfectly palatable due to the growing economy he shepherded into fruition with his big 1993 tax increase on the rich. In the end, Republicans not only knuckled under and reopened the government, they also, on March 29, 1996, gave him a clean bill increasing the debt ceiling. During an election year!

Right after the crisis ended, Bill Clinton recorded some of highest approval ratings he ever had. The public rewarded him for his tough willingness to fight back, his staunch defense of Medicare and his prudent stewardship of the economy. As we all know, he went on to reelection with ease.

So while he may not be on the money on the 14th Amendment business, I don't think anybody right now knows more than Bill Clinton on how to beat the GOP hostage game. Been there, done that.

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Comment Preferences

    •  wow. I would like to see that (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gooserock, HoundDog, JamieG from Md

      today ! But I would be afraid of the consequences of the default. but they were dangerous consequences then too.

      Nice diary. Thanks for it !

      •  But the People Had Far Greater Safety Margin (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        chuckvw

        With growing fed revenues, increases in fed interest payments were easily affordable. Our President thinks our budget is so bad we need to cut the middle class's social safety net; interest increases now would motivate both parties to cut even more.

        I don't see that we have the manuvering room.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Wed Jul 20, 2011 at 06:10:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  question: Do you think Pres Obama (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HoundDog, slinkerwink

      should take the same approach ?

    •  BBB (8+ / 0-)

      Clinton is RIGHT!!!!

      Please consider this: Every single debt incurred, or to be incurred, has already been passed by Congress and signed into law by a United States President. That is fact, friends.  Thus, everytime a law is passed which authorizes the spending of money, it automatically increases the debt limit by its very self. Therefore, there is no need to reaffirm that increase with this preposterous and superfluous pretense.  

      Actually, there should be great support for the legal view that if President fails to expend sums for programs which are currently the law, then he is in fact breaking the law.  Also, just because they have done this in the past, that does not make it legally required, much like the stupid filibuster isn't legal and does not have any Constitutional basis like Section 4 certainly does.

      However, I believe Obama wants to use this latest scare tactic to cut SS and Medicare and to lower taxes on Billionaires, including his Wall Street Robber Baron friends.

      Friends, we're being flim-flammed again.  

      (Posted elsewhere as well.)

      •  I'm not sure about the legality, (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Major Tom, Youffraita, elmo

        but I am quite sure about the effect it would have on U.S. interest rates. The bottom line is that the creditworthiness of Treasury bonds is backed up by Congress' power to tax. This is a power the President explicitly does not have.

        The bond market has to take an event like that into consideration when considering lending rates. Essentially, what you're saying the president can issue debts that Congress doesn't have to back up. Thats not good.

        •  BBB (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          OLinda

          You've missed the constitutional law point entirely.  It's not that "the president can issue debts that Congress doesn't have to back up."

          In fact, the reverse is true. Congress has already passed these laws and authorized these debts; and to try to use a 1939 rule to retroactively void these existing laws is simply not constitutional.  Indeed, if Congress wants to change these existing laws, then they would have to do it law by law and statute by statute.  By the way, there must be hundreds of them.  

          Clinton gets this.

          Added to that, each two-year Congress is separate, and not bound by previously existing rules, and particularly not by one from 1939.

          Also, when it comes to construing conflicting Congressional statutes, specific laws take precedence over a general one.

          Finally, Section 4 of the 14th Amendment trumps all of this. It is the Supreme Law of the land.

          Yet Obama apparently prefers to buy into the scare tactic.  Gee, I wonder why.  Is it just lack of guts?

               

          •  What Congress has done, in fact, (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            elmo

            is mandated where money is to be spent and where it is to come from. On the money raising end, it is statutory that once monies are needed to sustain laws for spending, if more debt is needed, Congress must sustain it.

            This does not strike me as altogether unreasonable or unconstitutional. However, your point is persuasive as well.

            My point is that if you go this route. lenders have to take this sort of uncertainty into account.

            •  BBB (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              OLinda

              The following is from your own diary:

              Clinton said, “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.”

              Yeah, vote twice for laws that remain fully in effect. Ha!!!!!!!

              Do you trust Clinton's understanding of the law?

              If so, we're being Flim Flammed.  

              By the way, Gephardt nearly did away with this stupid requirement.  

    •  If the interest rates go up (0+ / 0-)

      aren't the main beneficiaries bankers? And the congresspeople who are owned by them?

      They probably want us to go into default.

      "Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right." - Isaac Asimov

      by greenotron on Wed Jul 20, 2011 at 06:21:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I apologize for the double posts. my laptop (0+ / 0-)

    keeps doing this! sorry !

  •  I wish Obama would show the same (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IndieGuy, Major Tom

    determination to stick to his guns. I really think that the Republicans would fold. They are bullies and when you stand up to bullies they back down.

    If you give in, they are always back for more.

    If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when? Rabbi Hillel

    by AndyT on Wed Jul 20, 2011 at 06:06:50 PM PDT

  •  Obama Has None of Those Assets to Make Clintonian (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brooklynbadboy, Wolf10, OLinda

    gamble on. We didn't have any tax increases for the rich. There's been 20 years of outsourcing, automation and merging, suppressing a growing economy for Obama.

    And we're 15 years into Clinton's later media consolidation deregulation plus Citizens United, so the information available to most voters is overwhelmingly Republican.

    The 14th play sounds too radical for Obama, who doesn't seem to like the entire concept of challenge, but I wouldn't put it past him.

    I also wouldn't put it past Roberts to strike down the relevant section of the 14th Amendment as part of rejecting the President's play if he made it.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Jul 20, 2011 at 06:08:56 PM PDT

    •  It sounds unbelievable, but Clinton actually had (5+ / 0-)

      a more moderate GOP to work with than Obama. These tea party Republicans dont care what economists, Wall Street, or other Republicans say about the debt ceiling or consequences of default. If Obama says there would be a default, then it must be part of some Kenyan socialist plot for him to get more power.

      •  Bull, he did not. (6+ / 0-)

        The GOP Clinton had didn't threaten to shut down the government, they actually did.

        The GOP Clinton had didn't hold idiot hearings in Issa's committee in Congress, they paid for a 6 year long witch hunt by a special Prosecutor to dig into every aspect of the Clinton's lives.

        The GOP Clinton had IMPEACHED HIM.

        Both Clinton and Obama have the same degree of insanity to deal with on the GOP's part.  

        They turn the crazy up to Max as soon as a Democrat gets elected to the White House.

        Not 90% crazy for Clinton and 100% crazy for Obama.

        100% crazy against any Democrat who is in the White House.  You can't get MORE intransigent, more belligerent, more hostile, than 100%.  

        Yeah, imagine a skinny, beaky kid with an unfortunate last name, still trying to get approval and feel attractive and liked to cancel out all those other years growing up. - FarWestGirl

        by Rick Aucoin on Wed Jul 20, 2011 at 07:04:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  the 14th "play" isn't just radical (0+ / 0-)

      it's suicidal. Interest rates would take a significant hit simply based on the uncertainty of it all, and (sorry, former President Clinton), the legal reasoning is crap. Larry Tribe, who has spent his life studying the Constitution, says so.

  •  yeah, (0+ / 0-)

    those were the days.

    During the government shutdown, Clinton deployed The Clenis, which, in the course of things, resulted in the United States becoming the laughingstock of the world, as the nation was more or less paralyzed in Puritan frenzy for a solid year, culminating in an absurdist atavistic witch-trial in which a peregrinating member went on trial before the United States Senate.

  •  This has nothing to do with the merits... (9+ / 0-)

    ...of the Constitutional claim.  I have no idea if "the courts would stop" a President from doing that.  But the point is that unless you're willing to walk away from an extortion attempt, you're going to be extorted and Obama seems not to understand that.  You may like Obama more than Clinton for all sorts of reasons but it seems obvious to me that Clinton understands politics as a realm of human activity a lot better than Obama does, and not just because he was President for eight years vs. Obama's two-and-a-half.

    I'll Rochambeau you for it.

    by Rich in PA on Wed Jul 20, 2011 at 06:18:08 PM PDT

  •  and (3+ / 0-)

    a presidency that had been left for dead after the 1994 elections was revivified, and he then coasted to reelection.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Wed Jul 20, 2011 at 06:21:16 PM PDT

  •  & Clinton: Forget deficit until recovery picks up (4+ / 0-)

    Clinton on deficit hysteria

    and America seems to agree

    I bet Obama would win over his coveted moderates by saying his priorities are...
    1) avoiding badly derailing economy by no ceiling lift
    2) avoiding any deficit deal that includes things that hurt economy.
    3) passing additional measures to help the economy
    4) a balanced long-term deficit deal

  •  If the economy was stronger, maybe (0+ / 0-)

    Obama would be more of a risk taker. Even a short term government shutdown or default would send the economy back into recession. That probably wasnt the case in 1995.

  •  I wonder where (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sebastianguy99

    your guys would have been with Clinton during this battle after he cut $87 billion out of Medicare over 5 years in his 1993 budget reconciliation.

    •  Actually, I think it was $102 billion (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      masslib, Major Tom, GeeBee

      and it was target right at the wealthy. If I remember correctly, Clinton's plan did not raise premiums for anybody under $96,000, didn't raise the retirement age at all, and mainly was target at the repayments to the Medicare Trust Fund. Furthermore, that cut was contingent on passing a broader healthcare bill, which failed.

      What he did ultimately do when in negotiation with Republicans was put a triggering mechanism in that minimized the cuts if certain levels of economic growth were achieved or exceeded. They were.

      In the end, President Clinton left the program pretty much intact and boosted the condition of the trust fund by mandating that parts of the surplus he brought about were put into it.

  •  Clinton is right (0+ / 0-)

    We cannot default on our debts and risk economic catastrophe simply because the Republicans seem to think it might be an okay idea that will help them politically.  Or because they simply lack any understanding of the economy or the government.  

    As for the courts intervening, I think that there is a standing issue because while teabaggers may scream about it, they scream about everything.  They're not injured, which is the requirement needed to get into court.  There's also a political question doctrine issue as well.  Frankly, I think the courts would stay out of it and avoid it with a ten foot pole just because they don't want to see themselves politicized or see their reputation harmed by wading into a battle.  

    Obama needs to stand strong on this.  

    R.I.P. Warren Christopher (1925-2011), statesman, diplomat, reformer, and friend.

    by SoCalLiberal on Wed Jul 20, 2011 at 11:50:24 PM PDT

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