The current government shutdown has brought out the worst in the Republican Party and the pundits who align themselves with it. In a way I feel bad for regular, non-Tea Party Republicans—they’re faced with following some elusive notion of party loyalty even as most of them, possibly, are genuinely appalled by how radical the demands of the Tea Party have been. The Republican Party is (and has been for a while) the party of immediate gratification—they were happy enough to take over the House in 2010 on a head of Tea Party steam, but now they’re paying the rent on that move—and how. A savvier, more responsible party would have found a way to placate the batshit crazies on the fringe—instead they hoped to “use” them as a means for checking President Obama but now find themselves just as wigged out by where the Tea Party will take them as anybody.
At least that’s my read.
As the Beltway idiots argue about who caused the government shutdown and who’s being intransigent, in my mind it’s a settled issue. It’s sad to watch Bill Kristol on CNN try to argue that Obama’s unwillingness to open the World War II Memorial shows him to be the stubborn one. Obama has no true option—he must stand firm because the Tea Party/Republican Party has so often proven itself to be opportunistic negotiators who won’t hold to earlier promises. If Obama gives an inch, they’ll take a mile—that’s what Obama learned the last time we went through this. Curiously, Benjamin Wittes, the legal writer who helped convince President Bush to select John Roberts and Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court, is having no difficulty figuring out who’s to blame—he says this is all the fault of the Republican Party. Pity that most CNN/New York Times journos can’t figure that out.
But let’s move from the current crisis to the next one. I’m referring to government default on the national debt, of course, which clearly is the next item on the agenda of the Tea Party. Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida’s 3rd district alarmed a great many people when he was quoted in The Washington Post on Friday as saying that “I think we need to have that moment where we realize [we’re] going broke. ... I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets.” Business Insider has called this “the stupidest thing said about the debt ceiling.”
If you had any doubts about the Tea Party’s rabid insistence on the denial of reality and the recourse to potentially catastrophic solutions to … well… to problems as severe as a national deficit that’s been decreasing sharply over the last two years (at precisely the moment that the economy most needed stimulus) and the possibility of providing health care services to our nation’s uninsured in a way that too decreases the deficit—well, get a load of this.
Earlier today TPM reported that John Boehner’s press secretary, Michael Steel, sent out an email urging Democratic opinion-makers to emphasize the calamitous effects of a default, linking to this Bloomberg article.
You read that correctly: Boehner is so bewildered with what to do about the far right of his own party that he’s seeking help from Democrats in order to avert a catastrophe. He daren’t ask his own party members to do the same thing because they’ll just demand his ouster for ... well, for pointing out that a government default would be really bad for the country—and the entire world. Just yesterday Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was on Meet the Press reassuring viewers that a default would not be so bad, for which lefties Bob Somerby and Kevin Drum promptly chided him. That’s the context for Steel’s email—Democrats being insufficiently alarmist about the road to ruin Tea Party folks are hell-bent on taking this country on.
This ties into my overriding theory about John Boehner. I actually think he sees the current shutdown as part of a master plan to deal with the out-of-control GOP fringe. It’s likely that Boehner can properly disobey the Tea Party in a major way precisely one time. Once that happens, he’s out and most likely, Eric Cantor becomes the new Speaker of the House. I think Boehner is keeping that one rebuke in his pocket until the day that really counts—when the fight over defaulting on government debts happens.
Steel’s email is the icing on the cake. So take a moment and send the Great Orange One your prayers—he’s got an awfully tough lot, and, as annoying as he can be, I think he’s doing something genuinely patriotic here. And he’ll never get due credit for it.