I haven’t said anything about the platinum coin option, until now, because I am of two minds about it. One part of me says this is a very bad idea. We all understand the intent of the law that would allow this, to permit commemorative coins to be minted. Do we really want leaders who are willing to take advantage of any loophole to do things that are contrary to the intent of a law just because it suits their purposes? How can the public trust Democrats to be responsible if they are willing to do things like this? What other stunts might they pull? If they want to go to war, attack Iran for example, does this mean they will take a Bushian approach and ‘just do it’ no matter what the intent of the constitution is on these matters? I don’t want those kinds of leaders.
But what do you do if the other side refuses to play by the traditional rules? What if they are already using tactics that push far beyond the intent of congressional rules to impose their will? If one side is ignoring the traditional rules of engagement and hiding behind trees rather than marching in straight battle lines, is it okay to do so yourself? If the other side tortures, does that mean you should?
For torture, the answer is no, but in this case I think the answer is different. The Republicans will not play by fair rules of engagement, and worse they have taken members of the public hostage as a way to win/influence the battle (Saddam’s human umbrellas come to mind). If we don’t get our way, we’ll crash the economy and hurt people — the threat is clear. Obama, in his role of leader of all, not just Democrats, has chosen to, in effect, pay the ransom by giving in on key issues. But if the hostages can be freed another way, one that avoids giving in to the hostage-takers, it ought to be considered.
So perhaps it’s okay to match ridiculous tactics with ridiculous responses. Mint the coin, but make absolutely sure the public knows that it is only being done because the other side refuses to play fair, refuses to play by the explicit and implicit rules of political engagement. That’s key to winning the battle for public. Putting John Boehner’s face on the coin, as Paul Krugman suggested this morning, would certainly be a step in that direction.
This piece is cross-posted from Economist’s View with permission.