"John Boehner is being even more irresponsible than Ted Cruz," wrote Ezra Klein yesterday, which he later repeated while guest-hosting Chris Hayes' "All In."
His argument is that Boehner's ploy to pass a clean CR--after the Senate refunds Obamacare, "He'll shrug, say he tried, and tell his members that they should let him bring the Senate bill to the floor"--is actually supreme in its political recklessness, for underlying the contemporary ploy is a future promise to "save ... fire for the debt ceiling fight, where [the GOP caucus] can force the White House to delay Obamacare for a year by threatening to trigger a global financial crisis." That is, bottle up a debt-ceiling lift.
Klein's wisdom has become the center left's conventionalism: All is conceivably lost, for John Boehner has joined the madmen; where once he was the rational obstacle to nihilistic insurgents, he now swells their ranks.
It's a plausible argument, but only if one stops there--if, that is, one assumes that Boehner is ignorant of what the White House is assuredly contemplating: deploying the 14th Amendment's Section 4 language: "The validity of the public debt of the United States ... shall not be questioned."
In mid-January of this year "reporters pressed Mr. Obama about whether he is considering some executive action to sidestep Congress and raise the debt ceiling.... Mr. Obama declined to answer directly, and his administration has ruled out proposals to ... invoke authority under the 14th Amendment." But that was then, just as it was in 2011. And President Obama's refusal to answer directly suggested, and still suggests, that in the ultimate pinch--imminent default--he would take unilateral action. As Yale law professor Jack Balkin observed in 2011: "If all else fails, and we are in an emergency situation, the President may act to stabilize the situation."
Indeed the president would be compelled to act, for the alternative is no alternative at all. A claim of presidential impotence as the nation's credit is ruined and the world plunges into financial calamity, just so some ghoulish gang in the House can get its political jollies? No way.
But of course the White House can't say "No way" at the moment. It (and Speaker Boehner) must permit the ghouls their illusion that all economic hell can still break loose--until a clean CR is secured. Only then can the White House threaten to deploy Section 4. Any threat now would only bollix Boehner's ploy to keep the government open and pay the nation's bills.
In sum, Boehner's in on the endgame. That's my working theory, because Speaker Boehner is not an ignorant man.