President Obama is taking a page out of George Orwell’s “1984”. Just like Big Brother in Orwell’s famous novel 1984, Obama uses words to mean the opposite.
War is peace. On Sept. 27, he told us, “Iran’s Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons. President Rouhani has indicated that Iran will never develop nuclear weapons.” No reasonable person could believe that.
On domestic matters, Obama repeatedly takes to the podium to give a fictional account of “our constitutional system”. On Tuesday, as the government prepared to close down nonessential services, Obama said he did not have to negotiate with the Republican majority in the House of Representatives to get a temporary spending bill through Congress and onto his desk for signing. “I shouldn’t have to offer anything,” he said.
That’s not how it works, Mr. President. The House holds the power of the purse. All bills for raising revenue must originate there (Art 1, Sect 7). The founders gave the House that exclusive power, because its members are elected every two years and presumably are closest to the people. The Constitution’s chief architect, James Madison, explained in Federalist 58 that withholding funding is the “most effectual way” to resolve any grievance the public might have.
Fast-forward. Since 1980, there have been 11 shutdowns when the president and the House were controlled by different parties. Eight of these shutdowns occurred under President Ronald Reagan. Each time, Reagan had to go head-to-head with Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, a Democrat, who attached conditions to every stopgap spending measure. Each time, Reagan came to the negotiating table to end the shutdown.
Reagan and O’Neill disagreed bitterly over numerous ideological issues, including building midrange missile systems, expanding welfare and funding the Nicaraguan contras. But they compromised. Obama refuses to and argues in Orwellian fashion that it is out of the ordinary and wrong for the House to attach conditions to its stopgap bill.
On Monday, when House Speaker John Boehner proposed a conference to bring the parties together, both Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused.
Worse, they called the House Republicans “anarchists” and “extremists.” These insults from a president who, four days earlier, pledged “mutual respect” in his ongoing talks with Iran’s president, the world’s leading exporter of terror.
The difference between Reagan and Obama is this: Reagan knew who the enemy was. He told the Russian president, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” But he dealt reasonably with fellow American Tip O’Neil. Sadly, Obama cowtows to the world’s villains, including Vladimir Putin and Rouhani, but refuses to sit down with Boehner.
Already Obama is spinning another Orwellian tale about the coming need to hike the debt ceiling. He claims that attaching conditions to raising the debt ceiling “has not been done in the past,” and “is not how our constitutional system is designed to work”. Untrue. In fact, that is so blatantly false that The Washington Post slapped the president with four Pinocchios for his debt-ceiling tale. But say it often enough, and maybe the public will believe it.
In truth, the House has the constitutional authority to delay any debt-ceiling hike or attach conditions to it. A president able to borrow freely, the framers understood, would have too much power. “An elective despotism is not what we fought for,” wrote Madison in Federalist 62.
Yet Obama adamantly remains the non-negotiator. “I will not negotiate over Congress’s responsibility to pay the bills that have already been racked up,” said Obama last week. That’s another whopper. Raising the ceiling allows the Treasury to borrow more and continue spending at an unsustainable rate. It’s not about paying past bills.
What we are witnessing is the destruction of political discourse. When the president speaks, it is mind-numbing, manipulative rhetoric.
Betsy McCaughey is a former Lt. governor of New York and the author of “Beating Obamacare.”