The day after the Republicans took the House in the 2010 midterm elections, I wrote that we would soon see a return of the government shutdowns invented by Newt Gingrich the last time we had a Republican House and Democratic President. Six self-imposed crises later, with two more (so far) coming at the end of March and soon after, I'll let you in on the secret to my progosticating abilities. How could I say with such difinity that a Republican House would bring us a new era of shutdowns, sequesters, cliffs and economic hostage-taking?
It's simple: Republicans said so.
They said so loudly, proudly and often, in print, in public and on the record. They made no bones about it. In fact, they even said they'd try to pin the blame on the President while doing it.
Consider the following article, "Government Shutdown Times" in American Spectator I posted on November 3, 2010, which was already making the case for why Republicans should pursue governing-by-crisis. Quoting such notables as Newt Gingrich - who was by then making the case that the shutdown of 1995, widely seen as a disaster that rehabilitated a battered President Clinton, was actually a good thing - and Dick Armey. Armey's case against discussing shutdown was remarkably candid:
Newt’s position was, presidents get blamed for shutdowns, and he cited Ronald Reagan. My position was, Republicans get blamed for shutdowns. I argued that it is counterintuitive to the average American to think that the Democrat wants to shut down the government. They’re the advocates of the government… Here’s the other thing: You’re heard saying rather boldly in June that you’re going to shut the government in the fall. You’ve set the stage for the press to report that the Republicans are now doing in October what they said they’d do in June. Even if, in fact, they thought it was the right strategy to shut down the government, they should have kept their mouths shut about it.
Armey's problem was not necessarily shutting down the government,. per se, but that if you're going to do it, you shouldn't say so publicly because the press would blame you when you finally went through with it!
As it turned out, Armey had far too much faith in the media. Reporters like Ron Fournier, in their neverending effort to "blame both sides," are trying to pin the blame on Obama, as Republicans openly bragged they would get the press to do. Even the liberal-media-bashing Armey thought journalists were too professional to play dumb once Republicans had telegraphed their intentions. Consider this jewel from the same article:
A Republican decision to force a shutdown will ultimately be an extremely difficult question of perceived tactical advantage. Will Republicans try to accept responsibility for a shutdown, calling it a pro-active step to curb the cost and intrusiveness of government? If so, they put themselves at risk of “being demagogued”...
Republicans must blame the showdown on Obama and Pelosi, but they’ll need to be clever to make that responsibility stick to the Democrats in the eyes of the public.
Should Republicans proudly embrace the shutdown they impose on the American people as the good policy they believe it to be? the author asks - such a tactic might cause blowback. Therefore, blame Obama and Pelosi. This is as close as one can come to declaring to the press the GOP will lie to their faces, and expect their cooperation when it comes to pulling one over on the American people.
How can conservatives be so brazen? What could posess Republicans to be quoted in Politico, write columns, make speeches that make the case for shutdown then think they can get away with not getting blamed when they do as promised?
Because they know our current media is so corrupt they'll play dumb when it comes time to do so. Those same journalists who quoted them stating their strategy - on and off the record - will conveniently forget, and play along when it comes time to play the "who is to blame?" game.
That's the sad state of today's political journalism. Those once expected to hold our leaders accountable can essentially be told, "Believe me when I lie to you," and reporters will.