THE BLOG
09/30/2013 03:17 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Reagan would back Obama; Government Shut-Down is in Defiance of the Law

Ronald Reagan, like Barack Obama, faced for at least part of his presidency a highly divided Congress in the hands of the opposing party. Somehow over eight years, Reagan who, while popular, was also one of our most ideological presidents, never once contemplated either shutting down the government or defaulting on the nation's debts.

Why not?

Because proposing to shut down the government on the terms outlined by Rep. Boehner (R-OH) and Senator Cruz (R-TX) is essentially lawless and contrary to the Constitution.

The intemperate actions of Cruz and Boehner are also bewilderingly irresponsible, not only sending false financial signals around the world, but making it virtually impossible to accomplish meaningful legislative work, since to Boehner and company; nothing is actually ever enacted law if they personally dislike the law enacted. There are models of government that work that way - or at least there used to be before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Reagan faced his own version of far right Tea drinkers, though under various other pseudonyms which sounded patriotic with echoes of "don't tread on me" but for the most zealous meant "don't bother me with your problems," even if they were related to adequate food and shelter, let alone health care. Nevertheless, without setting up financial markets for needless panic every few months, it was possible to get things done. Reagan managed to rise above partisanship to save Social Security, cut taxes, and pursue a foreign-policy that abetted the demise of the Soviet Union and ended the oppression of Eastern Europe.

Ronald Reagan's policies left a great deal upon the not always robust shoulders of the private sector to be done; yet vis a vis the lawless or law defiant tactics of the current Republican House members, Reagan's opposition were constitutional scholars,rather than renegades.

From a constitutional perspective President Reagan would be standing with President Obama. (In the nearby White House photo, for example, Reagan with counsel at the ready, including the Attorney General and a younger version of your author - then, head of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), -- the President was explaining to Senator Armstrong (R-CO) why even as he agreed ideologically with one of the Senators many cultural initiatives, the particular one he was pressing hard for was beyond the law, including the law of the Constitution).2013-09-30-photoinovalwithreagan.jpg

Reagan might or might not like Obamacare; he would find the provisions that promote federalist experimentation and state discretion to his liking and he would likely be intrigued by the prospect of separating health access from employment. Reagan would see the virtue and possibilities for wider economic opportunity in not encouraging older people to stay in jobs just to keep insurance. Reagan unquestionably would have argued against the expansion of the public sector, but if his argument lost, he would not defiantly keep making it as if the law had not been enacted.

Most assuredly, Ronald Reagan would concur with President Obama that partisanship cannot be allowed to jeopardize the financial standing of United States nor should the Republican Party see existing law's implementation as anything other than their constitutional duty.

The full implementation of the law is not some favor that can be given the pretense of being offered in a budget negotiation. To make enacted law a pawn in such tawdry dealings is to hold the entire country hostage to one narrow minded conception of what it means to govern in place of what has actually been democratically approved. The far right in Congress is always quick to mention the word impeachment. Seldom is the presidential action so described worthy of their exaggeration; but what the far right is proposing here is indeed high crime or misdemeanor for it is an abandonment of the Constitution's very structure.

Would Ronald Reagan be embarrassed that his party has decided that laws enacted over the Republicans opposed to it will be left without funds, or in some cases, without taking action on the President's nominees to do the work the new law envisions? You bet, but he would also be outraged, for while he often quipped he was glad "we didn't get all the government we paid for," he also held sacred that "'We the people' declared that government is created by the people for their own convenience. Government has no power except those voluntarily granted to it by we the people.

Those ready to push government over the ledge into default unless laws approved by "we the people" are repealed, govern neither by democracy nor respect for the constitutional principles of Ronald Reagan, but by the very arrogance of power the Gipper devoted his life to refuting.