David Ignatius: A political DUI
WASHINGTON — Some of us can recall the helpless feeling of being in a vehicle driven by someone who is intoxicated. If you're like me, you don't want to cause a scene unless the driving is really erratic. But there comes a moment when you need to say: Stop the car. You're going to hurt someone. Hand over the keys.
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We have a political system that is the equivalent of a drunken driver. The primary culprits are the House Republicans. They are so intoxicated with their own ideology that they are ready to drive the nation's car off the road. I don't know if the sequestration that's set to begin Friday will produce a little crisis or a big one; the sad fact is that the Republicans don't know either, yet they're still willing to put the country at risk to make a political point.
I'm no fan of the way President Obama has handled the fiscal crisis. He needs to provide the presidential leadership that leads Congress and the country toward fiscal stability. In my analogy, he should take the steering wheel firmly in hand and drive the car toward the destination where most road maps show we need to be heading — namely, a balanced program of cuts in Social Security and Medicare and modest increases in revenue.
Instead, Obama has chosen to be codependent, as the psychologists say about those who foster the destructive behavior of others. He double-dared the reckless Republicans by proposing the sequester back in 2011. And rather than stepping up to leadership since his re-election, he has triple-dared the GOP hotheads with a partisan inaugural address and weeks of what the Republicans rightly have called a “road show” of blame-game politics. Doesn't he see that the GOP is addicted to this showdown at Thunder Road?
Much as I would criticize Obama, it's wrong to say that both sides are equally to blame for what's about to hit us. This isn't a one-off case of the Republicans using Obama's sequestration legislation to force reckless budget cuts. It's a pattern of behavior: First the Republicans were prepared to shut down the government and damage the national credit rating with their showdown over the debt ceiling; then they were careening toward the “fiscal cliff.” This isn't a legislative tactic anymore, it's an addiction.
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