Shutdown Autopsy

The Shutdown Fiasco -- and it was a fiasco, and solely for the Republicans -- began with an impassioned pseudo-filibuster on the Senate floor by Texas Senator Ted Cruz, ably assisted by Rand Paul and Macro Rubio. To the extent that it stirred small-government souls, and it certainly stirred mine, the marathon speech was a rousing success. Cruz's speech was the kind of thing even your typical, apolitical American could appreciate -- a man quite literally standing up for what he believes in. He was Jimmy Stewart with a Texas twang.

If only Cruz and the Tea Party caucus had possessed the wisdom to leave it at that.

What happened next was the House Republicans doing what they were elected to do, and that is to defund ObamaCare. The bill went to the Senate, where the Democrat majority did what it was elected to do -- protect ObamaCare. That the two sides of Capitol Hill are so deeply divided is merely a reflection of the nation as a whole. 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.

There were questions the House GOP should have asked before entering a shutdown over defunding ObamaCare:

1. Did they posses enough leverage to force the Democrats to fold?

2. If not, then what is Plan B?

The answer to the first question was obviously No. The progressives, now firmly in control of the Democratic Party, had fought for a century to grab centralized hold of health care. Having won it, there is no way short of booting them from power to get them to let it go. (See: Ed Morrissey.)

The answer to the second question was, "I'll get back to you on that."

As Robert Costa has been documenting for National Review, the GOP response to the shutdown has been a confused mess, notable mostly for backbiting, name-calling, and changing strategies more frequently and less intelligibly than I ask my bartender for another round. From Costa's October 7th report:

Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the Rules Committee, tells us Speaker John Boehner doesn’t yet have his debt-ceiling proposal finalized. For now, no legislation is headed toward his committee, and it’s all about messaging. “Negatory,” he replies, when asked whether the GOP’s next move has been set. “We’re going to keep with our great, positive attitude and tell the president, ‘you’ve got to sit down and negotiate.’”

“I’d say if you ran the clock on it, 48 hours,” Sessions adds, when asked how long it’ll take Boehner to unveil the leadership’s plan.

That was seven days into the shutdown, not seven days before.

The Democrats had their Plan A ready to go from the start, and it was solid -- if highly unethical. Use every lever of federal and media power to make the Republicans look bad. If the Democrats had a Plan B, they never needed to use it, mostly because the GOP helped the Democrats almost every step of the way.

Now it is true that the House sent 11 different re-funding bills to the Senate -- but so what? Reid could reject each one, knowing that his position was the stronger one. The Republicans had gone "over the top" as they used to say of trench warfare in WWI, and found themselves entangled in the enemy's barbed wire. Reid was never going to hand them a pair of snippers with which to free themselves. He's the kind of Democrat who would throw a drowning Republican an anvil -- and smile.