I also think there’s an enormous amount of untoward language about the federal government shutdown. Democrats including the president routinely refer to the House Republicans’ actions as “blackmail”, “extortion”, “terrorism”, “arson”, or some variation of one of those. I think the expression they’re looking for is “hard bargaining”. The basic difference is that all of the insults refer to acts that are illegal while what the House is doing is ill-mannered but not illegal.
If what the Republicans in the House are doing were illegal, the president would all but certainly be seeking relief in the courts. That he is not doing so suggests that he recognizes that the House Republicans are engaging in hard bargaining and he’s responding with stump speeches, presumably intended either to sway the public (which does not appear to be working) or prepare the battleground for the 2014 midterm elections.
To the extent that the president’s objections are well-founded the problem is in the structure of our government. Congresses have very little ability to compel future Congresses other than via multi-year appropriations, trust funds, and the like. That’s why bipartisan agreement on major new programs is so vital. The House, Senate, and the president together enact laws but the House identifies the spending priorities. The House has no legal obligation to fund things enacted into law by prior Congresses. What obligations it has in that regard are those of tradition, convention, and civility.
I wish the House weren’t behaving the way it is but I also wish that there were more collegiality and civility in our present public sphere. I very rarely get what I want.