The House Democratic Caucus released this audio clip of President Reagan’s September 26, 1987 radio address, in which Reagan said:
Congress consistently brings the Government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility. This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket, instability would occur in financial markets, and the Federal deficit would soar. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations. It means we have a well-earned reputation for reliability and credibility – two things that set us apart from much of the world.
It’s a clever approach and offers a useful counterargument to conservatives who believe that refusing to raise the debt ceiling is a wise idea. It’s not; and refusing to raise the debt ceiling would have damaging collateral effects. Conservatives who deny that are living in a dream world.
At the same time, it should be pointed out that (a) Barack Obama, when he was in the Senate, voted against raising the debt ceiling, thereby undermining his moral authority on the subject and considerably diluting the effectiveness of his sanctimonious sermons; and (b) the president could avert default by embracing the plan passed by the House earlier this week. The assumption that if Obama rejects a plan by the GOP means the Republican Party has no interest in raising the debt ceiling is simply wrong. Some Republicans are against raising the debt ceiling under any circumstances, which I consider to be an irresponsible position. On the other hand, I don’t have any problem with Republicans using the debt ceiling to leverage a deal that begins the essential task of re-limiting government.
Two final points: first, liberals today show near-reverence for Ronald Reagan. It’s worth bearing in mind that when he was president, Reagan was the object of their fury, and for more than a few, their bile and hatred. And second, the effort by progressives to transform Reagan into an Arlen Specter and Olympia Snowe-like figure is silly. Reagan was the most conservative president in our history – and it’s his conservatism that both helped restore America to greatness and drove liberals over the edge. The campaign to appropriate Reagan’s memory and record on behalf of liberal causes is ahistorical and intellectually dishonest. But it’s also a tribute to how great (and popular) a president Reagan was. Everyone, including liberals, now want a part of him.