Bill Murchison

The debt ceiling battle might in retrospect prove a blessing in disguise if it made the participants finally look around them and acknowledge the mess into which their own incaution has dumped them. There does have to be a long-term deal of some sort -- one that controls spending, hence the appetite to spend.

The prerequisite to such a deal is of course the kind of leadership to which President Obama seems, ahem, indisposed. He has to look around, say something like, what a mess, we're not doing this anymore, folks! -- and mean every syllable of it. He won't otherwise get much help from particular Republicans whose virtue, when it comes to spending, is no greater than his own: in some cases, maybe less.

Virtue is the hardest act to pull off in electoral politics, hence the rarest. The Constitution presupposes it without requiring its performance. Of the presidential office, Hamilton says in "The Federalist Papers," No. 68: "It will not be too strong to say that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue." From presidents, we expect more than little lectures about pulling off the Band-Aid when it's time. We expect hard work and ideas.

"Let's do it, quoth the president. Do what? Most of all, do it how? Obama's gift for snappy injunctions -- the kind he deplores even while issuing them -- looks like his highest talent: the one that got him where he is. And us along with him. Sigh.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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