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Thursday, October 10, 2013

The blink. And the blink after that.

Gallup says:
With the Republican-controlled House of Representatives engaged in a tense, government-shuttering budgetary standoff against a Democratic president and Senate, the Republican Party is now viewed favorably by 28% of Americans, down from 38% in September. This is the lowest favorable rating measured for either party since Gallup began asking this question in 1992.
Dems are down too, but they remain in the 40s, so they are in a much stronger position. This response from Taylor Marsh seems common:
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen my back and forth recently with CNN’s Jake Tapper. Yesterday he suggested to Senator Durbin that now that Congress and President Obama are locked in a standoff on the GOP generated shutdown, it’s the president who should offer Speaker Boehner a way out. Tapper isn’t the only television journalist with this problem, but as I tweeted him in response, President Obama bailing out Boehner has repercussions for presidents who come after Obama, and any House speaker, threatened by the minority.
There's truth in this. The American people don't want congressfolk to fight in this fashion, and nobody can respect a president who negotiates with a gun to his head.

The parallel that comes to my mind (perhaps because I've been reading so much about that era) is the Cuban Missile Crisis. JFK took his no-negotiations stance to almost insane levels, since what the Russians wanted was actually pretty reasonable -- a pledge not to invade Cuba and removal of obsolete missiles in Turkey. In fact, Kennedy did offer both of those items, but very secretly. In public, he waited for the other guy to blink.

The public respected what he did. Maybe they shouldn't have respected his approach (we can have the debate at another time) but no-one can deny that the public admired his perceived strength and inflexibility.

At this stage in our current stand-off, the Republicans are very close to blinking. They know that the public doesn't like the way they are doing business.

If Obamacare is such a bad law, then the citizenry will vote for a congress that will end it. If Congress doesn't want to pay for a program, the legislators should have that discussion while the program is being debated -- not after passage. And if the Tea Partiers want rid of Social Security and Medicare -- well, teabagger madness would end, for once and for good, one week after the checks stopped showing up in Grandma's mailbox.

There are plenty of indications that the GOP will soon blink:
Republican Party leaders, activists and donors now widely acknowledge that the effort to kill President Obama’s signature initiative by hitting the brakes on the government has been a failure. The law has largely disappeared from their calculus as they look for a way out of the impasse over the shutdown and for a way to avoid a possible default on U.S. debt.
And there's this:
“What the president said today was, if there is unconditional surrender by Republicans, he’ll sit down and talk to us,” said Boehner.

The thing is, it might be Boehner’s best and only option for ending the standoff that has seized Washington.
Under the circumstances, the best the GOP can hope for is a one-to-two month debt ceiling extension. This move would pretty much force Obama to the negotiating table. And at that point... that point, the JFK metaphor breaks down.

If Boehner blinks now -- a short blink, an eight-week blink -- Obama will have to deal. There will be a lot of pressure on him to blink Obamacare away.

Will he do it? Maybe. He's no JFK.
Perhaps the wheels are coming off of the Republican bus before they drive the country over a cliff. I was ready to give in, but I'm also glad that President Obama has held very firm. Here's the point: the Democrats have already acceded to all of the budget demands of the Republicans. The CR is, essentially, for the Ryan budget for goodness sake.
The testimony of Eric Shinseki before the House Veterans Affairs Committee that disability checks may not go out if the shutdown persists much longer may be the tipping point.
You're right, Joe. Obama is no JFK or FDR or any of the other leaders he was compared to in 2008. The reason we're at this moment in time is because the President caved in 2011. He had an election coming up and he had/has a love affair with the notion of 'The Grand Bargain.'

Will he cave on Obamacare? I don't think so. It's his signature program and additionally this is not merely a fight about a single law. It's really a Constitutional fight. Allowing a minority of the minority to steer the Ship of State through extortion is really what we're looking at and it cannot stand, period. If Obama caves on this, he'll forever have weakened the Office of the Presidency. That's not the legacy he's after.

The Republican Party is disintegrating. They cannot control the extremists they themselves encouraged into being. The best the Dems can do is stand back and wait for the fire to go out. Obama does have levers [dicey as they may be] that he can use to avoid going over the cliff with or without the Republicans. But it means he has to muster the courage to put his neck out and engage in the fight of his life.

The test is coming.

I am very leery of the argument that the obstructionist Republicans are engaging in extortion and treason. They may truly perceive themselves as Persons of Principle (I'm skeptical but let's just pretend). If so, let them pay the political price.

Put the shoe on the other foot. Imagine a nutsoid Congress that had its mind set on rushing into an illegal, immoral, and ruinous war--and a few brave Persons of Principle stood to say they would stop this by any means necessary. Would we condemn them as extortionists and traitors? Would we stand on the argument that the vote for the war was over, it was a done deal?

The Republicans sometimes seem to be ten or twenty years ahead of us in long term vision. They have plans for upcoming issues we haven't even conceived of yet. The USA PATRIOT Act, for instance, waiting in the wings for some excuse to enact it.

As a veteran of the impeachment movement, I remember that much of the opposition we faced among Democrats was framed as "Oh that's what Republicans do; let's not sink to their level." The suspicion that the Republicans' impeachment of Clinton was a pre-emptive strike designed to protect Bush is a reasonable one.

I'd hate to see over-reaction to the disruption by some self-discrediting poseurs foreclose on one of the few tools available to real Persons of Principle. They need all the weapons they can get, and to disarm them simply because rejecting the strategy is a good way to bash Republicans is short-sighted.

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