The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The 6 least-bad options Biden has in the debt limit fight

5 min

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In today’s edition:

Powerful verse

“Boats of mercy / embark from / our heart at the / oddest knock,” reads the poem “Chinese Foot Chart” by Kay Ryan.

Sometimes, the odd knock is more of a “snicker-snack,” as it was for journalist Josie Glausiusz when she recited the nonsense words of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” to her 12-year-old son in the last hours of his life. She hoped poetry would bring him comfort; it had brought her plenty.

Glausiusz reflects in an essay on the poems that anchored her as she lost her beamish boy, and how she came to share them with others in a WhatsApp group. She was not surprised when others began to share in return.

As Glausiusz writes, “With just a word or a phrase, a poem can reach the hidden places that prayers or well-meaning advice cannot.”

Her piece contains many lovely snippets, each enough to catch your breath. (“I sit with my grief. I mother it. I hold its small, hot hand. I don’t say, shhh.”)

But perhaps there is another poem that means the most to you. What words have you turned to in difficult times? The Post has created a place for you to share, because we know Glausiusz is not alone in seeking comfort through verse.

Glausiusz stopped posting poems for a while after her son’s death. But two months later, her boats of mercy are again a-sea. Maybe you’d like to launch one, too.

The six least-bad debt moves

President Biden has been dickering with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Republicans as the fight over raising the debt ceiling is bumping against a potential June 1 default. Columnist Jennifer Rubin writes that Biden has wielded his available options in a good-cop-bad-cop approach. She’s optimistic he can succeed without giving away too much.

But what are those options? Columnist Heather Long presents a very clear list of the six moves Biden could make if McCarthy doesn’t agree to a two-year extension. She ranks them best to worst.

First is a shorter-term punt — but a number of Republicans would have to go along. Unlikely. The items increasingly resemble Hail Marys as Heather works through the list, which ends with the minting of a $1 trillion platinum coin.

Humor columnist Alexandra Petri also has a few tricks the government might try to stretch its budget and delay default. Has it considered purchasing fighter jets secondhand?

Technically, there’s one more option: Just default. But as columnist Catherine Rampell wrote this month, that one means “financial Armageddon.”

Chaser: The Editorial Board shoots down talk of invoking the 14th Amendment, one of Biden’s more creative options. In fact, there’s only one solution, the board says.

From contributing columnist Keith Richburg’s celebration that his dire predictions for Indonesia turned out all wrong.

Keith writes that, a quarter-century ago, the country was lawless and in economic crisis, susceptible to insurgency. Today, the military is out of politics, and Indonesia’s very popular president — the fifth peacefully elected since 1998! — has refused to amend the constitution so he could run again. Keith calls it a “testament to how deeply entrenched democratic norms have become” over these 25 years.

Bersulang — that’s “cheers” — to another 25 more.

Chaser: Cuba might look similarly stable from the outside, contributing columnist Abraham Jiménez Enoa writes. But the country is in quiet crisis, and defiant Cubans are at a crossroads.

Less politics

Thank goodness it’s almost June, because Post Opinions has just about used up its hyphen allotment for the month.

The chief culprit is Gary Abernathy’s column on modern America’s inclination toward profanity, which in addition to mentioning “hell,” “damn” and “g.d.” spells out “bullsh--,” “sh--hole,” “f---ing,” “b----,” “f---s,” “motherf-----,” and “k-----oo.” (Okay, the last one I made up, but I hope you spent a good few seconds puzzling over it.)

To be clear, the tiny typographical fig leaves are a godsend for Gary, who abhors these gutter utterances. “If we can’t muster the nominal restraint required to regulate our speech,” he writes, “there’s not much hope for bringing order to the rest of our lives.”

He says change needs to come from the top — our political leaders — and soon, lest our sense of decency get, er, mucked up beyond all recognition.

Chaser: Russians can be foul-mouthed, too — and the Editorial Board writes that the potty talk of Vladimir Putin’s chief warlord actually reveals a lot about the war in Ukraine.

Smartest, fastest

It’s a goodbye. It’s a haiku. It’s… The Bye-Ku.

O profane nation,

Discern this four-letter word

From the soft-eared: Hush


Have your own newsy haiku? Email it to me, along with any questions/comments/ambiguities. See you tomorrow!