NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

October 19, 2013

Shribman:

(Continued)

-- When does standing for one principle violate other principles?

From the Republican viewpoint, the showdown that gripped the Capitol pit one widely held principle (antagonism toward Obamacare) against another one (financial responsibility). In cases like this, lawmakers have to weigh not only the moral value of one against the other, but also the practical consequences of one against the other.

In the minds of mainstream Republicans, the tea partiers made the wrong choice. But in the minds of the rebels, they made the right choice, calculating that the sense of financial responsibility of their rivals would make them fold.

These rebels weren’t the only ones playing that game, however. The Democrats made the same calculation, convincing themselves that the party of business would bend to business values, allowing them to keep Obamacare free from fetters. Of such calculations are crises made.

-- When do we prize steely determination and when do we condemn it?

That sounds like a hard one, but it’s really easy, which is why the country faced such a threat this month. We prize steely determination when we like a cause (integration is a good example) and we condemn it when we revile a cause (segregation, for instance).

-- When does a leader’s responsibility rest with expressing the will of his followers and when does it rest with serving a greater good? And does a leader have the right, or responsibility, to discern a greater good?

Welcome to John Boehner’s world -- and to the prison of his position.

From the beginning he knew what his conservative wing wanted, and he knew that financial default was a political, financial and moral disaster. If he did not know it at the beginning, he surely knew a week into the struggle that there was little likelihood of reconciling what some of his supporters wanted and what the nation needed.

Boehner knew that his was a conundrum for the ages, a choice, like so much else in this episode, between competing perspectives -- and a test case in one of the hardest decisions in life, and in politics: when to fight on principle and when to quit in principle.

North Shore native and Pulitzer Prize winner David M. Shribman is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

NDN Video
US Mission to Rescue Hostages in Syria Failed Reggie Jackson's ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Are Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon Breaking Up? Motorcyclist Sticks Landing This 'Breaking Bad' Reunion is the Most Hilarious Thing You'll See All Day! President Obama talks about who James Foley was Nicki Minaj Unleashes Her 'Anaconda' On the World Watch Helicopter Perform Aerial Ballet Can Buckeyes fill Miller's void? Victoria's Secret Models Prove They're in Fighting Shape How Brian Hoyer Stacks Up With Johnny Manziel Taylor Swift Reveals New Album 1989 is Full-On Pop Crews rescue elderly woman trapped inside flooded minivan Man Poses for New Mugshot Photo Wearing Shirt with Old Mugshot Photo On It Disquieting times for Malaysia's 'fish listeners' Caught On Camera: Johnny Manziel Obscene Gesture Rita Ora Embraces the Ice Bucket Challenge Bird surprises soccer player Ashley Young during game Chapter Two: Never too late to become an artist Ice Bucket Challenge Goes Viral, Raises Over $15M For ALS
Special Features
NRA Waterfront Plans