Under our Constitution, a strong president should protect and defend the nation and the presidency from dangers both foreign and domestic.

The question isn't whether Washington handled the debt ceiling crisis effectively. It didn't. The important question is why a small rogue ideological group was allowed to hold the American government hostage and create a dangerous precedent that future extremists, from the left and the right, will try to exploit.

The president and congressional leaders should have resisted attempts to link two totally disparate issues: a short term self-imposed debt ceiling; and a serious recession, job shortage and long term growth and fiscal problems. When congressional leaders failed to nip the blackmail threat in the bud, the president should have made it crystal clear that he would veto anything other than a "clean" debt ceiling bill and would proceed in the same way as President Ronald Reagan, who raised the debt ceiling 200 percent by signing 18 such "clean" bills.

If ideological extremists continued playing chicken with our nation's economy by risking U.S. default, the president should have protected our national security by unilaterally raising the debt limit.

Courts might or might not address this type of political dispute but, if so, there are good reasons to believe that the principle of executive action in defense of national security would be confirmed.

Roger C Kostmayer, Baltimore