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The PJ Tatler

by
Richard Pollock

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July 26, 2011 - 11:04 am

The White House has begun to deploy its large Oval Office stage as part of a PR campaign to cause anxiety about the possibility of a federal default and a government-wide shutdown.

The Tatler has learned that the White House will be inviting many groups that depend on federal assistance to the White House in a PR effort to pressure lawmakers on the debt ceiling. Officially the meetings are being organized to “brief” different groups about the impact of a default.

Republican lawmakers say the White House is employing scare tactics.

One of the first groups invited to the White House were veterans.  They have invited veteran groups to the White House for a late afternoon meeting. The topic is to brief them on veteran disability payments and other veteran benefits if Congress does not pass legislation raising the debt ceiling.

While default could occur after August 2, many government functions would continue.

Apparently the White House moved  its media campaign into high gear yesterday evening while the President was delivering his address to the nation.  David Autry, a spokesman for the Disable American Veterans told CNN, “We were notified late last night of the meeting” at the White House for veterans.

On Wednesday, the DAV said it is preparing to lead an all day “Virtual March on Washington” calling for the protection of veterans benefits and compensation.

Today the Capitol Building reported a large incoming number of phone calls to the Congress. The calls had temporarily overwhelmed the congressional telephone system.  Capital sources said they were recording the rate to be about 35,000 per day.  While high, it is still under the record 50,000 daily calls that came in to capital hill during the Obamacare debate.  Last night the President asked citizens to call to Congress about the debt crisis.

The type of drama employed by the White House can generate fear among vulnerable constituencies.  This can be powerful political theater especially when it is elevated to the most visible stage in the country, the White House.

If there is a default some but not all government programs will be cut back or suspended. Those on the cutback list probably include such non-essential government functions such as national parks, the Smithsonian Museum or long term scientific or medical research.

However essential operations will continue.  They include social security and disability payments, military operations, the postal service and air traffic control systems.

Because any shut down involves both huge civilian bureaucracies and unionized workers, the steps toward shut down are cumbersome, complex and filled with acrimony.

During the last threatened government shut down the federal Office of Personnel Management declined to inform unionized workers of its plans.  Many government unions sued the government in federal court and filed Freedom of Information Act requests  to discern their plans. The administration did not reveal their plans to the unions.

This time, however, the White House has decided to publicize its shut down plans prominently. It’s a powerful weapon that can intimidate many lawmakers.

Richard Pollock is the Washington, D.C., editor for PJ Media and the Washington bureau chief of PJTV.
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