Showing once again a total lack of interest in the substance of the debate over the closure of the government and raising the debt ceiling, every network morning news show wanted their pundits and experts to declare the winners and losers in the latest Washington kerfuffle. Not to be left behind, and desperately trying to produce the traditional vapid and shallow content of the corporate media, here is my list:
President Obama...Winner... The president staked out a position and stuck to it. (this is rare for him) His opponents assumed he would cave. He didn't. He wins for being steadfast. He also wins because no substantial changes were made in the Affordable Care Act. Was Obama as smart as all of this makes him look? Did he see the Republican strategy and know it was a disaster for them? Did he give the Tea Party enough rope to hang themselves knowing they would kick over the stool on purpose? Perhaps Obama's biggest win is the fact the disastrous roll out of Obamacare’s website was buried in news cycle after news cycle by all the brinksmanship of the Republicans. They had a chance to ridicule and embarrass the President, and it would have been deserved, over the incompetence of the online exchange, and they could have spun a cautionary tale of how this is a microcosm of the disaster which Obama's signature program will be, but there was no one to report on it as all the oxygen had been sucked up shutting down the government and threatening default.
Sen. Harry Reid...Winner...Reid was the face of the Democrats and he did not give an inch. He even steeled Obama's backbone when he told the White House to cancel a planned meeting between the president and Republican senators. Reid said he would not attend. Reid allowed a number of women senators to take the lead on crafting a deal and then presented Mitch McConnell with a fait accompli.
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi...Winner sort of... Pelosi, overshadowed by Reid and reduced to a spear carrier's role in the House, held her Democratic caucus together which forced House Republicans to have to bear the whole burden of crafting a deal and appeasing their more reactionary members. This forced Republicans in the House to fight with Republicans in the Senate and resulted in days of name-calling and aspersions being cast which further divided the party. While Speaker John Boehner looked dyspeptic, Pelosi was confident and assured.
Sen. Susan Collins et.al. ...Winners...Collins, along with a number of other female senators including Amy Klobershar from Minnesota, came out of this looking like the only grown-ups on Capital Hill. Collins took on the wrath of Ted Cruz and the gang, and was excoriated on and in regressive media, but she crafted a bi -partisan agreement which the President signed.
Democrats in Congress...Winners by default... with Americans declaring a pox on both party's houses, Democrats were still able to come out of this better than Republicans. Democrats stayed on message...they fought a government shutdown...they refused to capitulate in the face of Republican assaults...they stayed out of the way while House and Senate Republicans conducted a circular firing squad...they protected the health care program allowing it to begin to be rolled out.
House Speaker John Boehner...Loser... it is no surprise Boehner got out of Washington within hours of the President signing the new agreement on opening the government and raising the debt ceiling. Have you ever seen someone look so forlorn or pained than Boehner walking through the Capital after having to yank his proposal from the House floor because he couldn't get the votes in his own party to support it? He was so afraid of losing the speakership; he gave the tea partiers their head and then watched them make him look like a beleaguered kindergarten teacher trying to restore order. (One Republican said Boehner had been reduced to trying to herd cats) Boehner looked weak, ineffectual and clueless throughout these last few weeks. (did he ever articulate what it was the Republicans really wanted other than to get Obama to talk to them?) He did not even get a majority of his own party to vote for the final proposal he endorsed. He ended up needing Democratic votes or he would have failed. He now presides over a House caucus deeply divided with moderates looking for opportunities to take revenge on their more regressive colleagues. He was ultimately reduced to a sound bite, "...we fought the good fight but lost." That could prove to be more of an epitaph.
House Tea Party Republicans...Losers...It is difficult to overestimate how badly this group of politicians shot themselves in their collective foot. They came across as petulant, spoiled, and inconsolable children. Their actions...their refusal to help Boehner find a compromise...their holding fellow Republicans hostage to their whims...their ineffective message...all this allowed the whole exercise to be characterized as one giant temper tantrum costing the nation over $25 billion dollars and a great deal of prestige. Their own colleagues, like Peter King from New York or New Jersey governor Chris Christie, called them frauds.
Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee...Losers...knowing they had no chance of defunding Obamacare...knowing they didn't have the votes and President Obama could veto anything they passed...knowing a threat to default would turn Wall Street against them...knowing what happened the last time their party forced a government shutdown...Cruz and Lee still went forward, and enflamed their fellow travelers in the House, and shut down the government and refused to raise the debt ceiling. Cruz clearly saw this as a device to start his presidential bid in 2016 without any regard to what it does to his party. He was not well known outside of Texas and this was to be his moment to introduce himself to the rest of the nation. Unfortunately for him, Americans now know him as an intransigent ideologue willing to wreck the economy and threaten another recession all because he doesn't like the President or his health care plan. If presidential elections are decided from the middle on out, how does Cruz overcome the image he has cultivated as an extremist?
Senator Mitch McConnell...Loser...McConnell faces a possible tea party challenger in Kentucky and a well financed Democratic opponent. He simply disappeared for the last couple of months out of fear of alienating tea partiers or the Republican establishment and its big money. While Cruz was running wild, and while Reid was the face of the Senate, McConnell was M.I.A. (at one point some thought it profitable to put his picture on a milk carton) McConnell alienated the tea party anyway...made himself look weak and detached...looked overwhelmed and not in control of his caucus. He became one of the symbols of what is wrong with the system. In the final deal, he was totally overshadowed by Reid and by Collins and the other women senators who brokered the deal.
Hanbaugh, Levin, the Weiner, regressive radio, Fox et.al...Losers...Cruz, Lee, Bachman, King of Iowa and others in the Tea Party, are the darlings of regressive media and they were non-stop on the air with the above hosts and pundits championing their causes and losing badly. When not on personally, regressive radio carried water for them. Even worse were those like Levin and the Weiner who openly called for default saying the nation would be better off in the long run. Whatever credibility they had...whatever legitimacy they possessed...whatever hope they may have had of expanding their audience beyond old white folk is totally gone.
The American people...Losers...this manufactured crisis shows once again how the opinion of the American people has little influence over their elected representatives. Over 60% said they opposed the shutting down of the government to get at Obamacare, yet "they" shut it down...almost two-thirds said there should be no attempt to connect the debt ceiling and defunding the healthcare law, yet that's exactly what happened...Americans want bi-partisanship by large numbers and yet watched a small group hold the nation hostage to their ideology...90% of Americans want background checks on gun sales yet saw Congress fail to act...Americans say their number one concern is the shrinking middle class, jobs and income disparity yet they stand by while Congress fights over the debt ceiling and fights over healthcare. The disconnect between the American people and Congress couldn't be clearer and yet neither Congress nor the President seems interested in doing the people's business.
OK, just as Hollywood has never met a sequel it doesn't like, (fast and furious 19?) we get to do this all over again in January and February. As Yakov Schmirnoff was famous for saying, "...America, what a country!)