Lasting Pain of the Shutdown: We, the People, Lost

John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives.
John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

It’s over—sort of, and for now, but not forever, more like a couple of months, by which time we can all do this dance over again. Let’s do the time warp again, indeed.

We’re talking about the partial government shutdown, which lasted 16 days, and the U.S. debt limit deadline, which came the possibility of a default, which came perilously close to happening.

If nations can breathe, this one breathed an immense sigh of relief—but with teeth gritted, as angry as Peter Finch in the film, “Network”: "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore."

Take a look at House Speaker John Boehner, pumping his fist and then explaining things to his constituents in Cincinnati: “We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win.” Or as another die-hard Republican Tea Party type said: “ We tried. We lost.”

Then, let’s listen to Republican freshman Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who grandly said he would not try to stop the last-minute deal between Senate Democrats and Republicans from going forward and being passed on to the House where Boehner passed it lickety split, to beat the midnight deadline for default by at least some 66 minutes.

Is it just me, or does everybody think he had the votes all along?

If you’re looking for culprits for this shutdown, start with Cruz, who fabulously managed to convince some of his GOP peers in the Senate and especially the Tea Party stalwarts in the House—who have to date accomplished exactly nothing in terms of meaningful legislation, new ideas, stuff like that—that they could indeed win a battle to defund Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act, by threatening a government shutdown. Cruz lobbied, niggled and nagged. With a futile and weird filibuster, filled with references to Doctor Seuss among other things, he pushed his conservative allies to hold their ground.

Sure as shooting, despite every attempt by the GOP to seem conciliatory by sending over a flurry of bills, the administration and the Democrats stood their ground and refused to consider anything but a “clean” bill, minus anti-Obama care stipulations. As Obama put it grandly: “We will not let the United States government be held hostage.” Sure as shooting, the government shut down.

It has been a remarkable journey for Boehner, who had months ago refused to consider doing what he ended up doing, saying that Obamacare was the law and "We lost the election." At the first sign of what the most conservative parts of the House were up to, he caved and joined them. Then, he said he would not allow the country to go into default. All along, he said complained that the president and Harry Reid refused to negotiate. Then, he said he didn’t have the votes to pass a House bill . Savvy insiders said that there were at least 22 or so GOP members willing to pass a clean bill Turns out, there were actually 87. Can you believe it?

It was about this time that Boehner said, “We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win.” On the same day, Rep. Mike Mulvaney, R-S.C., added: “We tried. We lost.”

Note to Mr. Boehner and Mr. Mulvaney: you didn’t lose.

We lost. We, the American people, Mr. Cruz, whom you kept quoting as if you were sleeping with us late at night when we gave up our secrets, we, the United States, lost—about 24 billion dollars, millions of hours of manpower, time and effort spent in crisis, worry, fear and misery, caused by you and your cohorts in the House.

I do recall both Cruz and the ladies on television shopping in Culpepper, Va., who insisted that “in order to get what you want, you have to make a sacrifice.”

Cruz, the GOP and the Tea Party conducted this foolhardy campaign to shut down Obomacare by any means necessary with an attitude that—to twist a phrase the greatest Republican who ever lived said—“was full of malice toward many and charity for none.” It was especially so for those thousands of government workers who were furloughed, tourists visiting the capital and the country’s national parks and museums, the City of Washington, which took a monumental hit, and the faith of Americans in government.

Were the president and the Democrats to blame, also? Sure: they too spent time in strategizing, figuring out what to spin, whom to pressure, where they could make political points and gains, all useless tasks that did nothing to alleviate a single American’s pain.

Veterans and truckers somehow combined for an Oct. 13 protest at the World War II Memorial, a place used by GOP politicians to grandstand and wrap themselves in the flag and pose with members of the Greatest Generation, making real again the old saying that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

How else can one explain Cruz, who asked who could do such a thing as keeping veterans from visiting the WWII memorial. Actually, nobody, since no vet was denied access. But, to answer the question, why you could, Senator. Cruz, arguably the biggest game player in Washington, called for an end to game playing.

This is not a victory for anyone. Nobody won; nobody lost. This was a debacle, even as Tea Party legislators compared themselves to Gandhi—and, would you believe it, William Wallace, the Scottish patriot, glorified in the film, “Braveheart,” by Mel Gibson? Wallace, although dying very slowly and nobly in the movie, suffered drawing and quartering. The Tea Party, acting like Mel Gibson on a bad night, lost a head count. It was the American people who were drawn and quartered.

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Sun, 28 May 2017 02:40:35 -0400

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