President’s ‘My Way or the Highway’ stance led to the edge of a cliff
October 16, 2013 12:00 AM | 1917 views | 14 14 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
At the U.S. Capitol building, above, in Washington, lawmakers continued the partial government shutdown into its third week Wednesday.
At the U.S. Capitol building, above, in Washington, lawmakers continued the partial government shutdown into its third week Wednesday.
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The plain truth is the partial government shutdown-deficit ceiling cliff could have been avoided long ago if President Obama and the Democrats had been willing to accept even a small change or two in the health care law they enacted over the opposition of most Americans. But Obama and the Democrats decided from the outset that their answer to any change whatsoever was going to be “No!”

No doubt, the president and his partisans have been reading the polls and reaching the conclusion that they will benefit from the brinkmanship. To the point, an ABC News/Washington Post poll released early this week showed a new high of 74 percent of Americans in the sample disapproved of how Republicans in Congress were handling what was described as the budget crisis or budget dispute. That was up 11 percentage points from the start of the partial government shutdown. Another ominous turn: 54 percent said they “strongly disapprove” of the Republicans.

Even among Republicans, the trend was not good for the GOP in Congress. For the first time this poll showed only 49 percent approval by this group for how Republicans are handling the budget issue. And among conservatives across the board, 59 percent said they did not approve of the conduct of Republicans, while 76 percent of independents disapproved.

Democrats got 61 percent disapproval, five points worse than two weeks earlier, while Obama’s disapproval was at 53 percent and his approval at 42 percent, essentially flat since the partisan fight began, more evidence of his Teflon shield in just about any circumstances. As others have pointed out, Obama seems to be dissociated from issues and governance in the view of many Americans.

However, it may not be a good idea for the Democrats to play the brinkmanship game because they believe they will benefit politically starting with the 2014 elections. As the Post poll analysis by Langer Research Associates pointed out, the current readings are very much like those taken during the government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996 when Newt Gingrich led the Republicans in battle against President Bill Clinton. A January 1996 ABC/Post poll showed Clinton with a 42-50 percent approval-disapproval rating for how he handled the controversy — compared with Obama’s 42-53 percent standing currently. The Republicans in 1996 got a 20-74 percent rating — virtually the same as the 21-74 percent rating this week.

Yet the poor standing of Republicans did not doom the party to losses in the 1996 elections. Indeed, 10 months after the second shutdown, Clinton gained re-election — and Republicans maintained their control of both the House and Senate. As Langer Research observed in its analysis of its poll, “Now, as then, what may matter most is not just today’s blame, but the eventual resolution of the crisis and the extent of damage done en route.”

Meanwhile, there was no good reason from the beginning that this cliff-hanging act if Obama and the Democrats had not chosen the indefensible stance of “our way or the highway.” America deserves better from the president and his party.
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Tea 4 Meeeee
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October 22, 2013
The Tea Party lunatics don't really want what they claim to want. They have merely learned and effective song and dance routine that gets them what they DO want: Attention! President Obama knows this. Harry Reid knows this. Nancy Pelosi knows this. Even Boehner knows this. Let them do their song and dance trying land that Fox News Anaylst job alongside Palin as long as they like, as when push comes to shove they will go along with everyone else, happy to have scored some points, and believing they scored those points for themselves. The ridiculous part in all this is that the Me Party is scoring points, rather, scoring people, for the Democrat column in coming elections as moderates moderate themselves away from the insanity. Expect to see Ted Cruz doing his talking on Sunday morning TV shows, but nowhere else, in about 2.5 more years.
Lib in Cobb
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October 20, 2013
That's right the Democrats refused to negotiate. The GOP/TP did not want a few things, they wanted 19 items of change. Seven of the 19 were directed at The Affordable Care Act. Such as:

Defund The ACA

Delay The ACA

Delay Individual mandate

Deny coverage to the president

Deny coverage to congressional staffers

Deny birth control coverage

Would you really expect our president or any Democrat to negotiate away any piece of the most important legislation passed in the last 50 years?

If George 1 or 2 had passed this legislation you would have been kissing the appropriate ring.

I will remind all those who are opposed to The Affordable Care Act, Mitt Romney championed a similar bill for The Commonwealth of MA. His supporters were frothing at the mouth over his possible presidency. That froth blinded them to the idea that he was going to lose and he did by a significant margin.
Julie Smart
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October 18, 2013
Let the whiners begin when they start paying those premiums..........Arrogant bunch...It is going to catch up with you, and then still blame it on Bush....
moliere
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October 19, 2013
Actually, this is all Bush's fault. Had Bush not led us into a war in Iraq over false pretenses and had he not stood and watched while Wall Street committed scandal after scandal during his entire term (it wasn't just the mortgage companies and the banks although they did a lot of illegal stuff too) then the GOP would not have lost Congress over the war in 2006 and they would not have lost the White House over the war and the economy in 2008, and they would not have lost the White House AGAIN over fear that Romney was another Bush in 2012.

That is what is so amazing about you folks on the right. You simply will not accept the reality that the GOP had to pay consequences for the calamity that was Bush. It is as if you guys do not believe in accountability and want the public to keep electing Republicans no matter how they perform.

Look, if Obamacare is the train wreck that everyone thinks it will be, fine, the Democrats will get voted out of office and the GOP - the same GOP who refused to lift a finger to deal with either the health care issue OR the ballooning national debt issue when Bush was in office keep in mind Bush inherited a surplus FROM CLINTON ... where was Paul Ryan, Michelle Bachmann etc. on the budget back then, why didn't they shut down the government over Bush busting the budget when their own party was in power ??? - will get their shot. When they do, HOPEFULLY they will do a better job than Bush did nationally and for that matter Sonny Perdue did in this state (Nathan Deal, despite all his ethics issues, has done a pretty good job, not Zell Miller good but pretty good nonetheless).
Lib in Cobb
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October 21, 2013
@ Julie: read my post above. This is directed at people like you.
Brian Shriver
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October 18, 2013
I agree with others that this is a ridiculous editorial. Negotiation requires give and take. When was the last time the GOP gave in on an important issue like raising tax revenues?

The sad thing is that GOP extremism is leading to some really bad decision-making and perpetuating some really bad trends in the U.S. – ridiculously expensive health care, ridiculously expense weapons programs, rising income inequality, continuing loss of global competitiveness, stagnant median wages, etc, etc.

The U.S. will keep plunging down the list of countries ranked by global competitiveness and living standards as long as the GOP believes that killing government is the answer to every problem. In the short run, smaller government may benefit the very wealthy, but in the long run everyone loses.
moliere
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October 19, 2013
To be fair, the GOP allowed a small tax increase as part of the sequestration deal. A lot of Tea Party types were outraged by that, and such outrage is what led to the tactics this time.

My main problem is that Cruz, Lee and a lot of his supporters preferred defaulting on the national debt to allowing Obamacare to proceed. Their attitude was that they would rather destroy the country and the economy than see America turn into a European style social democracy. Well, while there are people who would rather die for what they believe in than live and fight for it, I don't appreciate Cruz and Lee making that decision for us. If you are going to be a suicide bomber type, then just take yourself out. Go stand on some public street and do the self-immolation thing like a guy did in DC a few weeks back. Don't strap a bunch of pipe bombs with nails and grenades to yourself, set it off in a crowded place and take a bunch of innocent people with you.

Seriously, Sean Hannity and several House GOPers were willing to allow the default and the economic catastrophe that would have resulted happen. They would rather live in a collapsed economy and society without Obamacare than be Canada, Australia, Japan, Israel (vibrant, growing social democracies) with it.

Do not mistake me. I oppose Obamacare and I support significant debt reduction. My difference: A) I face the reality that repealing the Bush tax cuts and going back to the Clinton era tax rates is the only way to actually reduce the national debt ... Obama's biggest political mistake was his decision not to let the Bush tax cuts expire in hopes that he could work with the GOP as a result, but the GOP gave him absolutely no credit for keeping the Bush tax cuts ... had Obama let the Bush tax cuts expire the deficit would be significantly smaller than it is now resulting in a net gain for the economy though it would have caused some short term pain and B) my opposition to Obamacare is not to the extent that I am willing to take down our entire economy to accomplish it.

If the Tea Party gets their way and destroys the economy to keep Obamacare from getting invented, do you know what would eventually emerge from the economic and social chaos? You guessed it: a socialist state. Destroy the economy to stop Obamacare today, and you get a new constitution and a new country that is to the left of Sweden and France in 15 years, because the left would exploit the social and economic upheaval to make even bigger gains than they have now.

It is simply amazing that the Tea Party does not realize this.
Richard Ghormley
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October 17, 2013
This editorial completely ignores the truth of what happened. It is poor commentary even for the MDJ.
Thomas Palmer
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October 17, 2013
@moliere, @rjsnh: From reading your comments bad mouthing the MDJ, Fox News, GOP, Palin and Cruz you both appear to have completely ignored a much larger issue of a nation in debt. Any person with vision would easily understand that it is impossible to borrow your way out of debt. When you are in debt, stop piling on more. Apparently the ongoing policy of tax more and spend more makes sense to the swarmy politicians who get back room deals from party leaders. If either of you have grandkids, you may want to begin a diary and explain in detail to them how it was wise for you to vote for more debt that they can pay. Both political parties are responsible for adding debt. You are both responsible for continuing to allow this to happen. Maybe you can make your grandkids understand. Make convincing entries and lengthy explanations in your diary and perhaps your grandkids will forgive you, but they're the ones who will have to pay.
Dave Y
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October 17, 2013
Wasn't it Dick Cheney who said, "Ronald Reagan proved deficits don't matter". That must have been their policy since they created Medicare Part D and fought two wars on the national credit card.
moliere
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October 18, 2013
@Thomas Palmer:

If you conservatives cared so much about debt and entitlements, you should have fixed the problem between 2002 and 2006 when your party had the White House, Senate and the House. What did you guys do about the debt back then? Nothing. What did you guys do about entitlements back then? Nothing. Instead, you guys added Medicare Part D, the Homeland Security Department, the TSA and handed out trillions to GOP cronies and contributors. (To speak nothing of an entirely unnecessary Iraq War that will have economic and political consequences for decades.) You guys only care about getting the fiscal house in order when you guys don't have the White House. Which means that it isn't legitimate, but a tool that you guys use to divide people and get back into power.

Also, fixing the debt and Obamacare are two different things. You can still have Obamacare and fix the debt. We know this because lots of western countries have even more comprehensive health care plans and their debt it far less. Just include Obamacare along with the other entitlements to be reformed: Social Security, MediCare, MediCaid etc. Second, repealing Obamacare would not do squat to fix the debt. It MIGHT make fixing the debt easier, but since the GOP has failed to do anything about the debt since A) Reagan ran it up in the first place and B) George W. Bush destroyed the surplus that he inherited with his tax cut and spend economics there is no proof that it would. So don't blame Obamacare for a problem that you guys refused to fix before Obamacare.

Finally, plenty of Democrats - though not all admittedly - want debt reduction. Obama himself has even stated multiple times that significant debt reduction is a goal of his. Why does it never go anywhere? Because Republicans won't compromise. Democrats want a debt reduction plan that A) increases taxes to raise revenue and B) cuts programs evenly so the pain is shared. Republicans want a debt reduction plan based solely on spending cuts with no tax increases, and they want their own constituencies - their own voters, Bob Barr's "real Americans" - to suffer the smallest cuts while the Democratic areas and constituencies get absolutely hammered. Of course the Democrats aren't going to go for that. The Democrats believe that everyone has benefited from 3 decades of deficit spending, that everyone is threatened and harmed by the large debt, so everyone should play a role in reducing that debt. That includes both the well-off people who have made a lot of money in the 3 economic booms since deficit spending began in the 80s (booms under Reagan, Clinton and Bush) should play a role with increased taxes, and low income people should play a role with having their benefits cut.

That is a real compromise, and the GOP isn't interested in that. The GOP only wants "negotiation" and "compromise" when only the other side has to give up something. So my question earlier stands: what was the GOP willing to give up in order to "compromise" with the president? Nothing, and that is precisely the point. They were trying to strong-arm Obama into giving up a victory and got beat. Simple as that. Admit it, move on, and concede to a tax increase and across the board entitlement reforms during the next round of budget negotiations.
moliere
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October 16, 2013
This is ridiculous. Why should Obama enact policy that he does not agree with? Why should Obama accept a political defeat? A better question: what would Obama have gotten in return? What were the Republicans offering to make it worth his while? When you are in charge, you get to pass your agenda. The Democrats ran the House, Senate and White House in 2010. They could have worked with the Democrats and influenced and helped shape the bill, but they chose to use it as a campaign issue; so they could claim that "it was rammed through with no Republican votes." Guess what? So now they want input on a bill that has been in place for 3 years and has already been validated by the Supreme Court while offering nothing in return? Hilarious. Would the GOP accept the same deal if they were in power? Of course not. Had the Democrats pulled the same stunt, the GOP would call it a coup attempt.

The Democrats were not playing brinksmanship. They were defending a hard-won policy victory, which is just as the GOP does all the time. If you want to change Obamacare or do anything else, you need to start at the ballot box. You have to win elections just like the Democrats did in order to enact and defend Obamacare.

Part of me thinks that the GOP was trying to engineer another financial crisis in order to get back into power. Sean Hannity on Fox News yesterday basically said that the GOP should let the default happen and let it be Obama's problem. They figure that since a financial crisis got Obama and the Democrats elected in the first place, why not have another one so the GOP can get back into power? The GOP knows that because of demographics that is pretty much going to be their only shot.

The GOP - or at least the Tea Party faction - were playing "destroy the country in order to save it" tactics. Fortunately the "establishment RINO Republicans" (and it is amazing that a guy like Peter King is seen as a MODERATE these days ... he was a conservative stalwart hero and spokesman during the 1990s) preferred the country over short term political victories.
rjsnh
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October 16, 2013
The MDJ stance is so far right that it can be taken no more seriously than Canadian Ted Cruz or "I can see Russia from my house" Sarah Palin. It is so far right as to be as outrageously ridiculous as Rush or Glenn. The MDJ is as unworthy a source of news as Fox. It lacks the witty comedy of Stewart or Colbert, but can definitely be viewed as a joke. It is filled with regressive analysis of the best way to advance to the rear.

Sandy in Marietta
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October 21, 2013
President Obama campaigned on a platform of medical care for all, and was voted into office by a majority of the voters. That means a majority of the voters support the ACA. If the Republicans had won the presidential seat then I could see this grandslaming, but they didn't; and because they didn't get what they wanted they tried to shut down the entire government. This is one Republican who is ashamed of the entire bunch.
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