For five years, Republicans have been complaining that Barack Obama is a rigid leftwing ideologue, unable or unwilling to bend his socialist leanings to do what’s best for America. Now they are counting on him to be the rational, pragmatic politician we need to save the country from a government meltdown.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted last week to fund all parts of government except for the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Unless Congress and the president can agree on a funding plan, the government will shut down at the end of September.
Last week’s House vote drew support from all but one Republican House member. Our own Steve Daines sided with the majority, staking out a position in favor of destroying the country rather than provide millions with health insurance.
Think the language is too strong? Let’s think this through.
Leading the charge for tying funding of the government to withholding money for Obamacare has been U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Sen. Cruz argued on TV talk shows Sunday that Republicans should stick together to defeat Obamacare.
If that means the government shuts down, Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will be to blame, he said.
“I don’t want the government to shut down,” he said on Fox News Sunday. “The American people don’t want the government to shut down. And I don’t think Harry Reid and President Obama should shut down the government.”
Sen. Cruz is placing a large bet – he’s betting the whole country – on the proposition that Obama and Reid will cave. But why should they?
The president already holds the highest office he will ever hold, and he can’t run for re-election. Sen. Reid is 73 and doesn’t have to run again until 2016. Why shouldn’t they go to the mat over Obamacare?
And if they do, what then? The whole point of hostage taking is to make a deal. A kidnapper who takes a little girl hostage to extort a million bucks has no leverage if the parents prefer the money to the girl. Nor does the kidnapper have leverage if he knows deep inside that hurting a little girl is a terrible sin, and he can’t go through with it.
Here, Republicans are holding the whole country hostage. They are betting that President Obama cares more about the country than he does about healthcare reform. But suppose he doesn’t.
Are Republicans really prepared to murder the hostage? A government shutdown would be bearable in the short run; Social Security checks would go out, and essential employees could work without pay. Some basic services, including parts of Obamacare, would go on.
But there is no guarantee that the shutdown would be short, especially with U.S. credit at risk unless the national debt limit is raised in a few weeks. Either one side caves, or the whole experiment in democracy called the United States is at risk.
Sen. Cruz, for one, appears ready to let the country collapse. He is convinced, or claims to be, that Obamacare already has failed, even though large parts of it have not yet taken effect, and he opposes efforts to fix the problems; only repeal will do.
Sen. Cruz’s stubborn stance has made him enemies in both houses of Congress and in both parties. He claims he is just trying to do right by the American people, but such claims should be taken with a tub of salt.
When Chris Wallace pointed out Sunday that most Americans, no matter how they feel about Obamacare, oppose shutting down the government, Sen. Cruz had smarm ready for the occasion.
“It depends how the poll is phrased,” he said, “and there are a lot of polls out there.” Like a true demagogue, he absorbs only the facts that back his ideology.
Americans voted for politicians like Sen. Cruz and Rep. Daines because they wanted conservatives running the country. What they got is nothing like conservatism. It is radical and extreme, rejecting the spirit of compromise and cooperation upon which this nation is founded.
Now they have backed themselves into a corner so tight that their only hope is that what they have been saying about Obama all these years was never true. Surely the president loves the country too much to let it fall apart over a single issue.
Perhaps he does. But do Republicans?