On August 1, 2011, Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” wrapped up his program with a search for “options” to avoid another round of Republican extortion tactics:
“I want to know what steps the president [Barack Obama] ‘could’ have taken to avoid this hostage-taking [over raising the debt-ceiling].
“…Is there another way than either buckling to the Republicans or letting the government and the country crash?
“How does he use the power of the presidency, the logic, emotion and basic patriotism of the people to thwart those willing to threaten, disrupt, even possibly destroy to get their way?”
And the answer to his questions–then and now–is: Replace the law of fear with the rule of law.
As Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern politics, instructed future leaders in The Prince:
“And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails….
“I conclude, therefore, with regard to being loved and feared, that men love at their own free will, but fear at the will of the prince, and that a wise prince must rely on what is in his power and not on what is in the power of others….”
Instead, in 2011, President Barack Obama surrendered to Republican extortion demands. As a result, the United States suffered a massive loss to its international credit rating.
But there were two other ways Obama could have stood up to Republican extortionists:
- Invoke the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and/or the USA Patriot Act;
- Rally the American people against this criminal threat to the security of the Nation.
And these remain available to him now–if only he has the courage to act.
Second Option: Calling upon the American people for their support
President John F. Kennedy did just that–successfully–during the most deadly crisis of his administration.
Addressing the Nation on October 22, 1962, Kennedy shocked his fellow citizens by revealing that the Soviet Union had placed offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba.
President John F. Kennedy
After outlining a series of steps he had taken to end the crisis, Kennedy sought to reassure and inspire his audience. His words are worth remembering today:
“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”
Just as President Kennedy called on his fellow Americans for support against a foreign enemy, President Obama could rally his countrymen against an equally ruthless domestic enemy.
During such a national address, President Obama could reveal such blunt truths as:
- Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as Adolf Hitler.
- Like the Nazis, they are determined to gain absolute power–or destroy the Nation they claim to love.
- And, once again, they are threatening to shut down the government–and deny essential services to millions of Americans–unless they get their way.
Finally, President Obama could end his speech by directly calling for the active support of his fellow Americans. Something like this:
President Barack Obama
“My fellow Americans, I have taken an oath to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’
“But I cannot do this on my own. As citizens of a Republic, each of us carries that burden. We must each do our part to protect the land and the liberties we love.
“Tonight, I’m asking for your help.
“We stand on the edge of economic and social disaster. Therefore, I am asking each of you to stand up for America tonight–by demanding the recall of the entire membership of the Republican Party.”
* * * * *
The 1938 Munich Conference taught an invaluable lesson in foreign affairs: Caving in to the demands of insatiable thugs leads to only more demands.
That was what British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain learned when he sought to appease Adolf Hitler, Germany’s war-intent Fuehrer.
Neville Chamberlain greets Adolf Hitler
Chamberlain believed that by giving in to Hitler’s demands for the “German part” of Czechoslovakia known as the Sudetenland he could avoid war.
On September 29, Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier met with Hitler and signed the Munich Agreement, resulting in the immediate German occupation of part of Czechoslovakia.
The Czechoslovakian government had not been a party to the talks. Their “allies” had sold them out.
In a matter of weeks, Hitler turned his attention–and demands–to Poland.
When his generals balked, warning that invading Poland would trigger a war with France and Britain, Hitler brushed aside their fears: “Our enemies are little worms. I saw them at Munich.”
Chamberlain returned to England a hero. Holding aloft a copy of the worthless agreement he had signed with Hitler, he told cheering crowds in London: “I believe it is peace for our time.”
Winston Churchill knew better, predicting: “Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor. They will have war.”
And so they did.
It is not too late for President Barack Obama to apply this lesson from history.