Any Republican strategy to force Obama and the Democrats to compromise on Obamacare, taxes, spending or even the Keystone XL pipeline in a continuing budget resolution or bill to raise the debt ceiling inevitably leads to a Cruz-like government shutdown cul-de-sac. Charles Krauthammer has known this since he worked for Vice President Walter Mondale in the late 1970s and when he watched President Reagan escape from government shutdown-showdowns with a Democratic congress unscathed in the 1980s.
For the past two weeks, as tea partier conservatives in congress led by Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Marco Rubio have sought to de-fund Obamacare, we heard nary a word from any Fox News Special Report panel that the only "intelligent" course would obviously be to tie changes in the Affordable Care Act to a debt limit bill rather than a continuing budget resolution. No, we were told that Republicans "just can't" win any battle that could lead to government shutdown because "Republicans don't have the votes" in Congress and so can only hope to de-fund, repeal or amend the ACA by winning back the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016.
On the day of Cruz's non-filibuster, Krauthammer derisively described the Texas senator's strategy as a "cul-de-sac" given the inevitable government shutdown and the assumption that Republicans can't win them is a law of physics on par with gravity, death and taxes. But only hours after Senator Cruz (R-TX) held forth on the floor of the U.S. Senate for nearly an entire 360-degree rotation of the Earth, Krauthammer endorsed a cul-de-sac strategy of his own, that he had never before proposed, based upon a poll:
It's quite astonishing, the degree to which Americans not only want to see a connection between raising the debt ceiling and lowering spending, but they are asking that they be linked, and that they are critical of the president because his position is 'I won't even speak about this. I want a clean raising of the debt ceiling, i.e. I raise it without anything else happening.' This is a 2-to-1 majority against the president on this.
On the other threat, which is to shut down the government over the continuing resolution, public opinion is precisely the opposite. 4-to-1 against the threat of shutting down. So, if you're a Republican and I agree with the Judge about the passion and the rhetoric in stirring up people over this, you've got to use intelligence. You have two clubs. You can use the C.R., shutting the government, or use the debt ceiling.
You have 61% of Americans behind you on the debt ceiling, where they want president to engage in negotiations, which will end up giving some things -- spending restraint, etc. to the GOP or you have the C.R., the continuing resolution, where Americans are 4-to-1 opposed. So why would you stake everything on something where Americans are hugely against you rather than get something easy on the C.R. and get the hard stuff, the spending cuts, the pipeline, stripping -- delaying Obamacare a year on the debt ceiling, where America is behind you?
This is a question of simple application of intelligence, it's not about a commitment to principle or a belief in conservative ideas.
Polls showing a majority of Americans opposed to Obamacare, raising the debt ceiling and a shut down of the government have been ubiquitous and legion since Obamacare became law; including those that tied Obamacare changes or delays to a debt limit bill. But we never heard Krauthammer or any of the other Cruz-bashers advocate that "obviously intelligent" strategy until Cruz had conducted his anti-Obamacare seminar while intelligent Beltway denizens slept.
Conservatives have no problem with walking, chewing gum, and using CR/budget and debt limit bills to exert their Republican House power of the purse under Article I of the Constitution. But Charles, you understand that the Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can strip any debt limit bill "clean" and that President Obama can veto a non-clean one, right? You understand that should October 18th arrive with no raising of the debt ceiling that Obama's Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will then face the prospect of paying for interest on the nation's debt, entitlements and all other government functions only from tax and other government receipts; which government receipts total less than two-thirds of government obligations?
You understand Dr. Krauthammer, that even if President Obama (despite past threats of an immediate "default" and suspension of payments to the military and the aged, disabled and surviving children owed Social Security benefits) were to instruct Secretary Lew to responsibly pay interest on the debt (thus preventing a default on the Full, Faith and Credit of the United States), the military and entitlement beneficiaries; eventually, and in the not too distant future, the inability to borrow would result in a...wait for it...that looks like a dead-end street up there...government shut down aka cul-de-sac!
And Charles, didn't you say that polls show that Americans oppose government shutdowns and always blame Republicans when they occur? And I thought you were intelligent and that the debt ceiling strategy was the only strategy worthy of an intelligent (read non-Cruz-like GOP)? We still wouldn't have the votes, right? So your new "intelligent" strategy would simply be another cul-de-sac.
What is not intelligent is to imagine that the polls you cite portend victory for the GOP based upon a presumed sophisticated calibration by poll responders. What will move public opinion, and sufficiently only AFTER a budget or debt ceiling deadline is passed, will be if the GOP is more Cruz-like and wins the battle of public opinion DURING a shutdown, whether it is the result of a CR or debt ceiling showdown.
Where was this argument before Cruz took over Dingy Harry's dungeon? Will the intelligent strategy tomorrow be scrapped if a new poll is released? And could it be that polls, increasing numbers of Democrats and even you good Doctor, have been moved as a partial result of what you have described as an "un-intelligent cul-de-sac" strategy that focused the attention of the American people on an obstinate and out of touch Democratic Party president and senate?
I think so, so please stop insulting the intelligence of tea partier conservatives and admit that you have gotten intellectually lazy over the past two weeks as the Atlanta Braves vanquished you and Davey Johnson's Washington Nationals, World Series-or-Bust hopes.
“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson