With a government shutdown perhaps a little more than a day away, the nonsense emanating out of Washington is heavier than usual, but this bit of claptrap on Twitter by a fellow who normally seems like a pretty decent journalist, Mark Halperin, got my blood up this morning:
Tips for inciting left/right attacks on CR tweets: say both sides share blame; say media is doing its best; say Obama/Boehner both good men
— Mark Halperin (@MarkHalperin) September 29, 2013
I’d like to take issue with at least two of Mr. Halperin’s three points of contention.
First of all, how exactly is this whole mess even partially the Democrats’ fault? Allow me to recap precisely what is happening here. The House Republicans, attempting to appease their wacko primary voters who might otherwise vote them out unless they stick it to the black man in the White House, sent a bill to fund the government to the Senate that would defund “Obamacare.” That, of course, would be the most notable accomplishment of the Obama presidency, which hasn’t even been implemented yet.
OK, let me pause here for a quick civics lesson. Generally, when a law is enacted, it is given time to work before we determine it is a failure. If it does, in fact, fail to work as hoped, we overturn it at that time and try something else. We don’t strangle it in the crib before we see whether or not it is actually going to do what we hope it will do. This latter thing—strangling it in the crib—is what Republicans are proposing to do because they believe it won’t work, or perhaps more correctly, because they fear it will work.
So, to get back to where we were: the House Republicans sent a bill to the Senate that would condition the funding of government operations IF the Senate Democrats agree to take away all funding for their chief accomplishment that hasn’t even been implemented yet.
The House Republicans had to know that this proposal would be rejected, as in fact it was; the Senate amended the bill to take out the defunding of Obamacare and sent it back to the House. At this point, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), who is not normally known for standing up to Republican bullying, told the House: stop wasting our time. We are not going to agree to gut our own healthcare bill, so send us something else.
The House Republicans responded by passing another bill, this one delaying Obamacare (which is what you do when you can’t defund it outright—you delay it and delay it until you get control of the government, and then you kill it). And when it became even more clear that Harry Reid really wasn’t bluffing (which, let’s face it, the Republicans already knew), they pivoted to a third bill that, also, will take steps to prevent Obamacare from ever taking effect.
I’d like Mr. Halperin to answer this question: exactly what part of this is the Democrats’ fault? The Republicans have made it plain that they will shut down the government unless the Democrats agree to give up on the centerpiece of their brief control of the government from 2009-11. They have given the Democrats no other options; they have put no other proposals on the table. It’s either gut Obamacare or government shutdown. Every time the Senate Democrats say “Leave Obamacare out of the funding bill or we won’t pass it,” the House Republicans send the Senate another bill attacking Obamacare. How, exactly, are the Democrats even partially to blame for the fact that they are being blackmailed by obstinate, childish Republicans? That is a case of “victim blaming” on an epic level.
As to Mr. Halperin’s second point (the media is doing its best)—please. Today’s media covering federal government and politics, with a few exceptions, appears to be a hapless collection of glorified stenographers who feel their only responsibility is to accurately report what either side says. So if one side lies, and the other side tells the truth, both are given equal weight because it is not the media’s responsibility to actually find and report objective facts. If they merely present each side’s talking points accurately, they seem to believe that they have done their job properly. “Team A says the sky is blue, and Team B says the sky is pink with purple polka dots. We report; you decide!”
As to Mr. Halperin’s third point, that President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) are both good men, well, that one may well be correct. From my observations over the last few years, I’ve always gotten the impression that Boehner would like to cut a deal with the president, but that the absolute loons on the far right of his caucus have blocked him from doing so. But even this point, if correct, is irrelevant to the larger point. That point, simply put, is this: the Republicans are so hell-bent on strangling Obamacare in the crib that they are willing to shut the government down to do it. Shouldn’t the media be making that point and, more importantly, asking why?