The McLaughlin Group, Friday, 10/18/13
I spent a couple of hours yesterday listening to highlights of the Friday and Sunday morning talk shows. Discouraging, yet informative. Almost no one on the Conservative side, in my admittedly biased perspective, seemed to have a thoughtful, fact-based view of what's going on. Progressives were underrepresented: Eleanor Clift on The McLaughlin Report (one out of five, above); E.J. Dionne on Meet The Press (one out of five, counting David Gregory); Donna Edwards (D, MD) on This Week (one out of five, counting Martha Raddatz, sitting in for George Stephanopoulos); and Rana Faroohar of Time Magazine (one out of five, counting Bob Schieffer). Some recurring themes, often ably rebutted by the sole Progressive voice in the room, but generally drowned out by the other, often strident, or angry sounding voices:
- The President did not "win" the shutdown. He may have gained political points, but the country lost, which is a larger problem.
- Obama failed to lead. His lack of solid, trust-based relationships with key Republicans is a critical weakness and failure.
- Nothing was accomplished. The "can" was just kicked down the road. We could do a second shutdown in January, but most felt the debt ceiling may be out of bounds for political hostage taking.
- The President was broadly criticized for using inflammatory rhetoric - "hostage taking", "blackmail", etc.
- The Obamacare rollout is a disaster that will only get worse.
In other words, these folks, in my opinion, haven't a clue. My point by point rebuttal:
- The President won a decisive victory that will be an essential part of Democrats' retaking the House in November 2014. He has significantly raised the political price for a failed shutdown and has most likely priced a debt default hostage-taking strategy right off the charts. This is a huge win for America's regular constitutional order.
- All Democrats stuck with him on all essential votes in both the House and the Senate. That's leadership. GOP leaders don't want to be seen, like Gov. Christie, as having a good relationship with the President. These folks simply have no earthly idea what integral leadership is all about, where leadership is often most clearly demonstrated by appearing not too lead at all.
- Because of this failed Shutdown, there is a better chance that Republicans will pay attention to what Obama says this time, and not assume quite so cavalierly that he will surely cave. What the GOP is just starting to understand is that there will be no entitlement changes without new tax revenues, and precious little room to move sequester funding levels around without those same revenues. The GOP has been gloating about forcing the Budget to remain at sequester levels; but they really don't like those levels for Defense (which takes almost the complete impact of the sequester reductions coming January 15 - a total of $20 billion in new Defense cuts). My guess is without new tax revenues, there won't be a deal, and both sides will have to accept a sequester level CR going forward. Will the GOP shut us down again? I wouldn't think so - not in an election year; but it's not impossible. Here's the real question: without new taxes, they will be forced in the House to try to develop Appropriations agreements at sequester levels, which they have repeatedly failed to do (failed Farm, HUD and Transportation bills). When will they realize that without new revenues, they won't be able to manage the Appropriations process, and that without new taxes, the Democrats won't budge much at all?
- The President used tough rhetoric because it was appropriate. Yes, he is the President of all the people, not just Democrats, but he was acting to support all the people by saying a tough-minded no to tactics of extortion.
- 20 million people have been to the site. Folks want affordable insurance. Insurance companies are eager to sell it. This will work out by next Spring, for sure, and we will see that Obamacare is truly a triumph.
The President is playing a strong defensive game right now. He has broken the GOP offensive moves by standing solid and unyielding, just saying no. He will advocate strongly for a Budget deal, for the Farm bill (hoping to strengthen Food Stamps), and for Immigration. He knows he may get none of them. He will push his team hard to fix the Obamacare rollout. He will work on a peace deal in Syria, to follow up on what is a successful CW disarming program. He will get a deal with Iran. He will make up for his missed trip to Asia, to support the new Trans Pacific Partnership under development and the overall "Asia pivot". And he will wait. The Long Game, as always.
Come November, 2014, he will be rewarded. He will then have the support he needs to complete his agenda: Immigration, Global Warming, and job-building reinvestment in America.
I can barely wait!