In laying out his "last resort" plan for dealing with the debt ceiling, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell [R-KY] finally made the call. "Houston, we have a problem."
McConnell's plan acknowledges that the Republican ultimatum of not raising the debt ceiling is simply not credible. It would be beyond irresponsible to deliberately inflict the damage that would stem from default on the nation, on Americans, and on the global economy.
McConnell has feared the extremism of the Tea Party movement since 2009 when he opposed Rand Paul [R-KY] in his bid to become the Republican candidate for Kentucky's junior senator position. This move on the debt ceiling is essentially McConnell's admission that he has given up on moderating his radical colleagues and has moved on to trying to protect the nation from them.
His convoluted plan removes from Congress the ability to make the devastating attack on the United States of America that the Tea Party has been pushing to make. It puts authority and responsibility into the hands of the executive branch, out of reach (for now) of the Rand Pauls who would harm the federal government as a matter of principle and the Eric Cantors who have made investments that give them a personal profit motive to sabotage the US Treasury.
There is a simple lesson in leadership for Mitch McConnell in all of this. Leaders must lead.
McConnell vigorously opposed Rand Paul during the primary process for good reason. But when Paul won the primary, McConnell subjugated what he knew was right and backed Paul anyway. That wasn't leading. That was following.
Until a few weeks ago, McConnell steered clear of using the debt ceiling as an ultimatum. When pushed on it, he parsed his words carefully so that he could support the negotiating objectives of those pushing the ultimatum without committing the Republican Party to an untenable position. But as the Tea Party increasingly committed Republicans to their plan to walk the plank, McConnell caved and dove in with them. He knew it wasn't the right thing to do, but he did it anyway. That wasn't leading. It was following.
Now, after making the Republican position even worse by supporting the anti-American terrorists on its right flank, now he is finally leading again. Hopefully it isn't too late for him to save the Republican Party (and Americans) from the Tea Party zealots he has finally given up on appeasing.
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