With the two sides showing no sign of having any intention to forge a compromise, the current government shutdown looks like it is here to stay for the foreseeable future. In fact, the best hope for resumption of governmental services seems to be on October 17, the date set by the Treasury Department as the day the debt ceiling will be reached. President Obama told the AP that he’s willing to negotiate changes to his signature health-care law and to find ways to reduce spending, but added that he will not bargain until after Congress reopens the government and passes a new debt ceiling.
The fact that the president keeps proclaiming loudly that he won’t negotiate seems to be what has emboldened Washington Republicans. Many weren’t for the Ted Cruz/Mike Lee tactic to force a shutdown at this point over Obamacare by attaching provisions to defund the law — or, failing that, attaching language to the resolution that funds the government that would cause a year’s delay in implementation of the individual mandate. At this point, however, their sentiments can most accurately be described by quoting Senator Rand Paul. Last week, Paul was caught on a hot mic telling Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, “I don’t think they poll- tested ‘we won’t negotiate.’ I think it’s awful for [Democrats] to say that over and over again… I know we don’t want to be here, but we’re gonna win this, I think.”
Even moderate Republicans like New York’s Michael Grimm said that “[t]his is not just about Obamacare anymore.” The very fact that the president, who famously said that the difference between the right-wing media and the left-wing media “is just that the more left-leaning media outlets recognize that compromise is not a dirty word,” now has the very same media parroting his claim that Republican demands for negotiations are “extortion” and “blackmail,” has led the most vocal of the GOP’s shutdown critics to change his tune.
New York Rep. Peter King, who was last seen trying to lead a “moderate revolt” against leadership in order to avert the shutdown, and who has called Ted Cruz a “fraud,” told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace that he would not sign on to a discharge petition — a maneuver which would effectively force a simple spending bill onto the floor of the House for a vote. King said that although that is the kind of bill he supports, he wouldn’t sign a petition because “Democrats are not bargaining in good faith.”
But the bigger contributor to the Republicans’ sudden ability to grow a backbone is the vindictiveness on full display by the Democrat-controlled Senate and the executive branch of government in dealing with this shutdown. After Democrats criticized the GOP, saying that the shutdown prevented children with cancer from getting treated at NIH, Republicans in the House passed a bill fully funding NIH. Harry Reid tabled it, and responded to a reporter’s question by saying, “What right did they have to pick and choose what part of government is going to be funded?”
For its part, the White House seems to be going out of its way to maximize the pain felt by the general populace due to the government shutdown. This is not hyperbole — this is fact. While the website AmberAlert.gov usually redirects to the website of the Office of Justice Programs (a department of DOJ), it was set to redirect to a blank page that proclaims “Due to the lapse in federal funding, this Office of Justice Programs (OJP) website is unavailable.”
Conservative bloggers, though, noticed that the redirect was bogus. If one was to go directly to the OJP website, one would see that the regular site is up and functional — with a large bold-type announcement that proclaims: “This website has been deemed critical to public safety and will remain operational during the lapse in federal funding.”
After the conservative media started making enough noise about this selective shutdown that mainstream outlets had no choice but to cover it, the White House somehow “found” the money and brought AmberAlert.gov back online on Monday.
What is clear is that this is another attempt at “Shutdown Theater” on the part of the Obama administration. Just like the attempts to shut down parks and open-air memorials — which hadn’t been closed in previous shutdowns — with large signs proclaiming they were closed due to the government shutdown, this is another cynical attempt at scaring people as to the actual effects the shutdown will have on their lives.
But there are cases of extreme overreach by the administration — some of which have been described as borderline tyrannical by conservative commentators. Private businesses operating on government lands have been forced to close, and there was even the story of Ralph and Joyce Spencer, who were evicted from their home in Lake Mead, NV, because the cabin sits on federal parkland. The Spencers are 80 and 77 years old, respectively. This led David Freddoso of Conservative Intelligence Briefing to point out that “[t]he main difference [between President Obama and the Spencers is] that the WH is owned by taxpayers, unlike the home this couple is being evicted from.”
The National Parks Service has also attempted to close down several parks that aren’t even owned by the government. The Claude Moore Colonial Farm was ordered closed — even though it had been cut out of the NPS budget since 1980, and Mt. Vernon found its lots barricaded, although it is entirely owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, which receives no government funding.
But through all this, nothing makes it as clear that all these closures are just attempts at trying to hurt the people so that there will be something to blame on the GOP as the report that one of Obama’s preferred golf courses, the course on Andrews Air Force Base, remains open during the government shutdown. The official explanation given is that the course is paid for by private funds. But then again, so was the WWII Memorial — which was barricaded until it was overrun by angry veterans.
It does make sense, though. Only the president suffers if he can’t play golf, and he doesn’t need to be convinced to pick a side.