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World

Opinion: Unfit to govern

The lifting of the debt ceiling is good news for everyone except the Republicans. The party is a pile of shambles: it has not reached any of its goals and has proven its political incompetence, says DW's Michael Knigge.

It's rare in the world of politics that winners and losers are as clear as they are in the outcome of the US fight over the budget and the debt ceiling. The winners are President Barack Obama, the Democrats, the American people and the world economy. By remaining tough in the face of the Republicans' attempted blackmail of his health care reform Obama not only defended his signature project.

Knigge Michael DW Expert 2007

DW's Michael Knigge

What is much more politically significant is that he preserved the US government system's ability to function - at least for the time being. If Republicans had succeeded with their equally radical as also crude blackmail attempt - kill health care reform or go bust - the already dysfunctional government in Washington would have been irreparably damaged. Any yielding to the Republican hardliners would have opened the floodgates to take the US and the world economy hostage in the future for their radical ideas. It is to Obama's and the Democratic Party's credit that they avoided this situation with their veto.

The losers are the Republicans. Not only are they the initiators of the shutdown with estimated damages for the US economy of some $20 billion (14.8 billion euros). They also bear the blame for the erosion of confidence in the US role as the world's most important economic power. A majority of Americans are very aware that this is the case.

But for the Republicans, this defeat is also a declaration of bankruptcy. The once proud Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln or Ronald Reagan has become a party which does not shy away from driving its own country and the world to the edge of collapse - just to do away with a health care reform that was passed three years ago. And bear in mind, this is a health care reform which was even upheld by the conservative Supreme Court last year and which American voters backed with their reelection of Obama.

The most poignant symbol of the Republican Party's political incompetence is their House speaker John Boehner, who has been a member of Congress since 1991. He allowed a radical minority - only some 40 of over 200 representatives - to push him into an absurd confrontation. Instead of pitting himself against fundamentalist and vocal Congress greenhorns like Ted Cruz and Tim Huelskamp, and doing his job leading the Republican caucus, Boehner attempted to push through their maximum demands. Boehner only reversed course in the 11th hour so as not to go down in history as the initiator of the first US bankruptcy ever.

The result is that instead of doing away with health care reform, Boehner and his cohorts have shown the majority of Americans quite clearly why the Republican party is currently not electable. Meanwhile, Boehner himself faces the same fate as his Republican predecessor Newt Gingrich, who caused the last shutdown in 1995/1996 and was forced to step down one year later. Boehner should not wait that long.

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