Obama isn’t motivated to do anything about the debt ceiling

I agree with the analysis that President Obama could and should raise the debt ceiling all on his lonesome is sound, valid, and the best course of action. I also think he won’t, though, or if he does, it would be out of character for him, and it’s worth understanding why.

To unpack this why, I take as a premise that everyone has an idea of their own job that is uniquely their own, and that this idea usually comes down to prior experiences. This is important, because most people would probably think that the president sees his job as whatever the Constitution says it is. We are fed and led to believe this, and no doubt that this dude has to be know the Constitution to do his job well, but it’s no different from you or me knowing what the staff policies at work are, or what procedures that are in place for various issues.

So, I am making a distinction between what publicly motivates him, and what internally motivates him. My point is that Obama raising the debt ceiling on his own doesn’t internally motivate him, even though external factors lead us to this very conclusion.

In other words, everyone has to have an understanding of their job that goes beyond the analytical understanding of where they fit in. The definition of being reluctant to doing something that is part of your job, where you need to be convinced to go beyond your comfort zone, is when you are not internally motivated to do it. Everyone needs a motivationally sound reason to do something, but especially to do it well. Motivationally sound reasons need to be both external (I believe in the Constitution) and internal (something else deeply personal).

I reckon that Obama sees his own job primarily in the same way that an editor of a respected journal sees channeling the copy that comes in. If he ends up redefining the modern presidency, this is probably the metaphor that will be used most often to come to an understanding of it. He sees himself as a funnel to what is there already, as someone who ensures the legitimacy of the product and his role is just a footnote on the credits page. He sees it similar to the way that a professor sees the role of the editor-in-chief should be. To produce good copy rather than make a new, better magazine. To be all about the issues but you yourself are not actually to be discussed in its pages.

Obama doing an executive order raising the debt ceiling would give him an article in his proverbial magazine that he’s the editor of.

You may be asking: What about his candidacy? How does he not make himself the issue and get himself elected? Aren’t politicians adept at inserting themselves into conflicts? Again, I refer you to my external vs internal distinction made above. It’s true that a politician isn’t going to get anywhere soon if they don’t figure out how to inject themselves into situations, but that remains an external motivation.

I also think that his opponents largely understand this about Obama, which is why we are finding ourselves in the situation where the opposition party is threatening to default on our credit. Obama is an introvert, one whose majority of motivation is professorial in nature, and they see that as a weakness.

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