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Shutdown Autopsy

Why does the GOP keep playing to Obama's strengths?

Stephen Green


October 17, 2013 - 12:45 pm
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But as I wrote three weeks ago, the Republicans were “pot committed” by the Cruz speech and had to walk away with some kind of win, no matter how small. What, before beginning a losing shutdown battle, could Republicans have done to eke out a win?

The fallback position could have rested on two simple measures, one with broad bipartisan support, and one with pretend bipartisan support. In exchange for refunding ObamaCare, the House GOP could have immediately counter-offered a repeal of the medical device tax (already symbolically approved by the Senate), and to fully bind both houses to ObamaCare’s provisions and mandates.

Requiring Congress to follow its own laws is one of those things where everyone gets to look like statesmen, even if it’s through gritted teeth. And the medical device tax is opposed to anyone with more sense than God gave to pudding.

This deal, while not a great one for conservative interests, would have put Obama and Reid on the defensive — and been probably achievable without a shutdown. Broad smiles for the cameras all around, and some small good would have even been done to the country for a change.

A strong speaker — an O’Neil, a Gingrich, a Pelosi — could have wrestled that deal through his caucus. Instead, Boehner had to rely on a majority of Democratic votes to get the bill passed.

It is with no pleasure that I must tell you now that the Hastert Rule — not bringing bills to the House floor without “a majority of the majority” — is dead in the water, just as the fight over immigration resumes. Think about that for a moment, if you’re still convinced the GOP won some kind of moral victory these last 16 days.

The shutdown battle was probably irretrievably lost as early as October 6, when Boehner totally lost message discipline:

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” host George Stephanopoulos asked Boehner, “If [Obama] continues to refuse to negotiate, the country is going to default”?

“That’s the path we’re on,” Boehner replied. “I’m willing to sit down with the president, but his refusal to negotiate is putting our country at risk.”

There was never a risk of actual default. Washington takes in 18% of GDP in revenue, and spends only 2% of that to cover our debts. But by raising the specter of default, Boehner legitimized false Democrat warnings. From there the GOP’s position, already weak, crumbled.

Before getting into this mess, Republicans ought to have asked themselves a third question: “Will a shutdown help us win enough seats, and the White House, to accomplish what the shutdown couldn’t?” The jury is out on that one until 2016, but at the moment it doesn’t look promising. The Republicans used to be famous for hanging together while the Democrats squabbled and scrambled, but those roles have reversed.

It’s true that the president acted unseemly in his sour victory speech Thursday morning, but he’s always had a knack for saying outrageous things in moderate tones — and he’ll get away with it this time, too. Obama had his soothing tone and his shutdown theater, and by that time the GOP had… what, exactly?

If there’s a fourth question, it’s the one Republicans ought to be asking themselves right now.

“Why do we keep playing to Obama’s strengths?”

Why, indeed.

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Stephen Green began blogging at in early 2002, and has served as PJMedia's Denver editor since 2008. He's one of the hosts on PJTV, and one-third of PJTV's Trifecta team with Scott Ott and Bill Whittle. Steve lives with his wife and sons in the hills and woods of Monument, Colorado, where he enjoys the occasional lovely adult beverage.

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Top Rated Comments   
Well the establishment GOP made sure the Tea Party look like some rotting corpse on the side of the road thankfully.
So as I see it the Republicans got nothing - even what they got was already in Obamacare.

So, if the tea party was telling the Republicans not to give in but the Republicans went ahead and caved instead of doing what the tea party wanted and the Republicans got nothing, how exactly does this make the tea party look bad?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Before getting into this mess, Republicans ought to have asked themselves a third question: “Will a shutdown help us win enough seats, and the White House, to accomplish what the shutdown couldn’t?” The jury is out on that one until 2016, but at the moment it doesn’t look promising. "

I know I sound like a broken record, but what reason do we have to believe that a GOP President, Senate, and House will repeal Obamacare?

The GOP had all the elected branches from 2003-2006 and they didn't end or even cut one government program, much less an entitlement. In fact, they twisted the arms of conservative members to get a new entitlement. From Wikipedia's account of Medicare Part D's legislative history:

"The bill was debated and negotiated for nearly six months in Congress, and finally passed amid unusual circumstances. Several times in the legislative process the bill had appeared to have failed, but each time was saved when a couple of Congressmen and Senators switched positions on the bill.

The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives early on June 25, 2003 as H.R. 1, sponsored by Speaker Dennis Hastert. All that day and the next the bill was debated, and it was apparent that the bill would be very divisive. In the early morning of June 27, a floor vote was taken. After the initial electronic vote, the count stood at 214 yeas, 218 nays.

Three Republican representatives then changed their votes. One opponent of the bill, Ernest J. Istook, Jr. (R-OK-5), changed his vote to "present" upon being told that C.W. Bill Young (R-FL-10), who was absent due to a death in the family, would have voted "aye" if he had been present. Next, Republicans Butch Otter (ID-1) and Jo Ann Emerson (MO-8) switched their vote to "aye" under pressure from the party leadership. The bill passed by one vote, 216-215.

On June 26, the Senate passed its version of the bill, 76-21. The bills were unified in conference, and on November 21, the bill came back to the House for approval.

The bill came to a vote at 3 a.m. on November 22. After 45 minutes, the bill was losing, 219-215, with David Wu (D-OR-1) not voting. Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay sought to convince some of dissenting Republicans to switch their votes, as they had in June. Istook, who had always been a wavering vote, consented quickly, producing a 218-216 tally. In a highly unusual move, the House leadership held the vote open for hours as they sought two more votes. Then-Representative Nick Smith (R-MI) claimed he was offered campaign funds for his son, who was running to replace him, in return for a change in his vote from "nay" to "yea." After controversy ensued, Smith clarified no explicit offer of campaign funds was made, but that he was offered "substantial and aggressive campaign support" which he had assumed included financial support.[6]

About 5:50 a.m., convinced Otter and Trent Franks (AZ-2) to switch their votes. With passage assured, Wu voted yea as well, and Democrats Calvin M. Dooley (CA-20), Jim Marshall (GA-3) and David Scott (GA-13) changed their votes to the affirmative. But Brad Miller (D-NC-13), and then, Republican John Culberson (TX-7), reversed their votes from "yea" to "nay". The bill passed 220-215.[7]"

Obamacare has the same chances of survival with 100 GOP Senators and 435 GOP Congressmen as it does with 0 GOP Senators and Congressmen.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
One very large reason for this is that for some reason that I cannot fathom, we allow the MSM to yell us who the leaders of the GOP are, and in doing so, we largely allow our enemies to define us.

Why does anyone outside of their respective states really care what John McCain or Lindsey Graham think about pretty much ANYTHING?

And yet, there they are on the Yap Shows, bloviating away on command of their media masters as though they are Movers and Shakers in the party. Where were McCain and Graham, themselves both veterans, when their fellow vets opened the monuments and memorials? Cruz, Lee and Palin were there.

That tells me all that I need to know.

And of the DemocRats, many of whom are also veterans, where were they?

Oh yes....rallying with illegal aliens under Teleprompter in Chief's approving eye ...and with National Park Service blessing.

The way out is clear. The money that funds the GOP has to buy the MSM and change its editorial policies to bend the Low Information Voters to their side.

To paraphrase Mahan:

"If you don't control the sea, someone else will."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (113)
All Comments   (113)
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Fiscal cons never are.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Plan B? Third party. See you at the polls, RINOs.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Democrats would like nothing more- split the vote and never lose again.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Of course Harry Reid and his crew restored the cut spending and sent the bill back to the House, which rejected it in favor of a partial shutdown of the federal government."
Completely deceptive, this sentence completely forgets about the 2nd compromise house CR. Its bad enough that the dems and the MSM perpetuate this completely false narrative, but to hear a supposed conservative at PJ do it as well is pretty disgusting. The truthful timeline is:
1. House puts forward defunding CR, many people think that is extreme, and the senate rejects it.
2. House immediately compromises, before the shutdown has started. They back off defunding, and pass a 2nd CR, only asking for a 1 yr delay, which considering the horrible state of the website would have been eminently sensible for all.
3. Reid and Obama reject this sensible compromise, because they did not want to give up anything on the shutdown, thought the nation will blame the shutdown on repub offer 1, and will forget about compromise offer 2, and thus falsely blame the repubs, which turned out to be true.
4. So the truthful narrative is not that the repubs precipitated the shutdown by demanding defunding, but that the senate and obama precipated the shutdown when they rejected the eminently sensible 1 yr delay compromise house CR, and instead chose to spin the shutdown for political gain.

I can expect the dems and the MSM to lie and bury this truthful account, but to see somebody from PJ doing it as well is pretty disgusting.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The plan now should be, make the Democrats own ACA, lock, stock, and barrel. They rammed it down the country's throat, they would rather shut down the government than defund it, they called anyone who tried to negotiate in good faith a terrorist, anarchist, etc. They own this Titanic of a healthcare plan and we should make sure they go down with it. No waivers, no exceptions, no excuses. Own it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There were two victories in this latest round of the fight for the narrative.

First, Ted Cruz gained national attention far beyond his position. What he did flew in the face of the establishment Republican party. He was able to get coverage by the MSM in ways no Republican has done in many years.

Second, we watched the armed "thugs" of the National Park Service deployed to inflict pain. While we thought we were having an ideological disagreement, the NPS delivered us a message. What this shutdown showed me was this is no longer a game and their side has no compunction to use force to directly hurt us.

I think we are past the point of wining the argument by wining strategies. This event has set a ball in motion. One that shows us some hope in ideological leadership in Cruz.

More importantly, an awakening of our nations tyranny response seen in those who ran the barricades.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Why, indeed."

Seems to me that right now the Republican Party leadership is populated by dim bulbs who are very short on cleverness; this is something the Democrats have in spades.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Not just right now. The Republican Party leadership is continuing the tradition of 'The Stupid Party' (John Stuart Mill is credited for calling conservatives “the stupid party” or something like it in a letter written in March 1866.)- probably the most conservative thing they do. They are extremely clever at doing all right by themselves. The Democrats are more persistent and unscrupulous than clever- very narrow minded in several senses of the word.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The GOP made the mistake of playing chicken with someone who didn't care if he lost. BHO's game wasn't chicken. I have become thoroughly convinced he has one and only one compelling interest that drives him: BHO. I'm not even sure he's really a committed Socialist or Marxist, but more that these ideologies are convenient vehicles to further his greater interest: BHO. Key in that interest is protection of his signature law. Second in that is securing power for his party (in his name). Although, as you point out, there was never a reason for the US to be in danger of defaulting, if it would have helped him to portray the GOP as bad guys I don't think he would have minded one bit to let it happen.

The only possible successful strategy with this guy is one that entails personal risk, and the GOP is too scared to go that route.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
".....didn't care if he lost."

He didn't have to care, as what on earth did he have to lose? With his party's majority in the Senate, he has it all in the bag. The Republicans knew this too, so why they embarked on their stupid little charade is beyond me; I am beginning to think they are a bit like the woman who never leaves the man who beats her. They cannot seem to get enough abuse from all those around them. #stupidparty
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
CNN on big screen in a national chain burger joint yesterday evening
Tea party now dead chants
obamatardcare is being found to be clumsy and very expensive
A different U.S. Senate is about the only thing viable to put some brakes on our commode spiral with the temper-tantrum-in-chief.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Why does the GOP keep playing to Obama's strengths?"

a) they're stupid
b) they're colluding
c) all of the above

I tend to think 'c' may be correct. Some of the GOP are obviously stupid, given that they continue to act contrary to their own interests. Some are obviously colluding with the Demorats, given the number of times they will swear to a position and then vote contrary to it after a suitable period of opposition.

Why we continue to vote for these people is beyond me.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Why we continue to vote for these people is beyond me."

It's the proverbial "all politics is local" thing. People rail against congresscritters in general but are inclined to hold their own in higher regard. There needs to be a clean sweep of all incumbents (particularly the current crop of leaders) with the infusion of fresh blood to invigorate the party, IMO. Term limits would put a stop to a lot of the shenanigans too, IMO.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
When you make it a game about personaltity, Obama with the MFM wind at hisback is going to win.

When you make it a math problem-$17 trillion in debt, $88 trillion in unfunded liablities, Obamacare's huge deductibles,-The One has no real answer. You put a hole in his balloon of happytalk nonsense. And it's something people would understand. There has been no discussion at all about cutting government nor spending nor eliminiating programs. Make Obama the face of Huge Government.

And finally The Establishment US Too Big Gov Little Off the TOp GOP has to be killed. If that means losing a few elections, fine. Let them make their mess, but be ready to clean it up. Plan B should have been no waivers, Congress under O'care and O'care in full force and effect immediately. T
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"And it's something people would understand." Sadly, not.
"Plan B should have been no waivers." Hadn't thought of that. Talk about throwing a curve. That should have been Plan A. Repealing the waivers. Like I keep saying, there are issues that have 90% public approval- grab 'em and talk about nothing else- of course, the ones that are most awkward for Democrats. Would make the other side look like the chumps they are in very short order. Wouldn't that just be pandering- yes, pandering to the majority of voters. It's called representation.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If the democrats are the "party of government" and most of those working in government are on the side of the democrats then why did the republicans vote to fund the damn thing?

Why can the democrats behave in a reckless and irresponsible manner and yet still win?

It's because the democrats are willing to destroy the system to get what they want. The republicans can never win a shutdown or debt ceiling fight as long as they value the status quo more than the democrats do.

You cannot radically transform the system without destroying parts of the old system. That's what the PP Act is all about, destroying employer based private insurance and replacing it with single payer administered by the IRS and the zombie corpses of the old insurance industry.

Both Obama and Reid were willing to talk down the stock market and risk an economic collapse to get their way and knew that the republicans were not. The current political system is corrupt and broken but the republican party defends it even when it acts against both their interests and principles. All the republicans leverage was in the shutdown. When the debt ceiling was reached their bluff was called and they went right back to defending the leviathan.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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