Forget all the Constitutional separation of powers issues, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) stuck it to President Barack Obama, forcing the president to come the table on the budget and debt ceiling. When Boehner allowed the Tea Party to shutdown the government Oct. 1, the otherwise no-drama Obama condemned Congressional actions, essentially telling Congress he wouldn’t give in to blackmail. While the impasse began over Obamacare, it morphed quickly into a battle of egos, where the GOP refused to kowtow to the president’s stubbornness. To assure that history doesn’t repeat itself in a few months, Obama better get the lesson for the whole sordid mess where a last-ditch fix kept the government from defaulting on its debt obligations. Boehner played the White House and Tea Party like a fiddle, eventually ending the stalemate before disaster struck Oct. 17.
Obama’s “my-way-or-the-highway” position antagonized the GOP already furious about starting Obamacare insurance exchanges online Oct. 1. “The American people are completely fed up with Washington,” said Obama, sending the exact wrong message to the GOP. Instead of sounding contrite or conciliatory after the brinkmanship that practically brought the country to its knees, Barack struck a defiant tone, the same one that landed the White House into the hot water. Who’s ever right-or-wrong, the president must still engage the process to avoid that kind of loggerheads that took the country to the brink. Calling GOP actions “completely unnecessary,” Obama continues to rub salt in Republican wounds, noting that the temporary fix doesn’t touch the president’s Affordable Care Act. Slapping the GOP in the face, Boehner retaliated with guerrilla-like tactics.
Obama must decide quickly whether or not he wants a repeat of the GOP brinkmanship or button-up and start a more bipartisan approach to fixing the nation’s economic problems. Whatever the GOP’s PR problems, Obama must look at the situation practically, knowing the whole mess could start over in a few months. “There was no economic reason for all of this,” said Barack, reflecting on the some of the $25 billion in lost revenue estimated by S&P. While the Tea Party was willing to default the country to stop Obamacare, the rest of the GOP is willing to give it time and eventually fix the problems. “All of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists and the bloggers and the talking heads on raid and the professional activists who profit from conflict and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do,” said Obama, admonishing the GOP for extremism.
Obama’s problems with the GOP-controlled House have been going on since 2010 when they took over the majority in the last Midterm election. Obama’s loss of the House in 2010 was driven by Obamacare, signed into law March 21, 2010. Republican media machine did a masterful job of demonizing Obamacare from Day 1. White House officials did an equally bad job of explaining the benefits of Obamacare and neutralizing GOP propaganda. Since the exchanges began Oct. 1, the GOP continues to assail Obamacare as an abysmal failure, despite only two weeks out. Reasonable GOP voices like Sen. John Tester (R-Mo.) call on his party to give Obamacare more time and suggest fixes to make it more responsive. It’s up to Democrats to spend more time, energy and money explaining how Obamacare helps ordinary citizens, despite the glitches seen in the first few weeks.
Once Obama exasperated Boehner, he allowed his Tea Party attack dogs to shutdown the government. Hearing that the president refused to negotiate—for whatever reason—stuck a stick in the GOP hornet’s nest. “You have to engage in the process. This is a town where it’s not enough to feel you have the right answers. You’ve got to roll up your sleeves and you’ve got to really engage in the process . . . that’s what governing is all about,” former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a Wall Street Journal meeting. Panetta sees more problems ahead if Obama doesn’t change his tone. Panetta makes some good points but he’s not dealing to an angry mob opposing any and all of Obama’s legislative agenda. While there’s a time and place for diplomacy, Obama has dealt with more contempt by the opposing party than any president in recent memory. GOP hatred toward Obama runs deep.
All the smoke about Boehner potentially losing his job as House Speaker was designed to cover-up his total control over the rebellious Tea Party. Given the green light to shutdown the government and default the country, Boehner knew he’d pull the rug out from underneath the upstart Tea Party at the last second. Instead of waiting to the bitter end and losing what S&P estimates as $25 billion, the House Speaker played both the White House and Tea Party like fools. Boehner granted himself through a change in House rules the dictatorial power to end the crisis at will, calling for a full House vote. If nothing else, he showed that moderate Republicans are still in control of the GOP. Let there be no mistake, Boehner sent a shot across the bow to Obama that if he—or the Tea Party—doesn’t get his way by Jan. 15, he could pull the plug on the U.S. government for a second time.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.