It’s even money at this point whether certain GOP apologists actually don’t understand what Cruz, Lee et al were on about, or understand too well and correctly perceive the threat to the carefully crafted political theater that keeps them all employed and in power. Whichever it is, no-one seems to be responding to the “Does Ted Cruz still eat babies alive?” type questions particularly well. I have to believe somebody is reading the internal polls and concluding that — no matter which side you’re on, clueless or dark — demonizing an increasingly popular and effective group of elected representatives in your own party might not be the happy path to victory in 2014.
So, in the interests of helping those who clearly can’t help themselves. Let me offer an alternative. The next time Bob-or-David-or-Whoever brings up the subject of the Ted Cruz apocalypse and its aftermath, Rick (totally made up name) might try this:
RICK: Let me stop you right there, Bob-or-David-or-Whoever, do you watch football?
BOB-OR-DAVID-OR-WHOEVER: Why, yes I do.
RICK: So you understand an onside kick, right?
BOB-OR-DAVID-OR-WHOEVER: Yes, but I fail to see —
RICK: Excellent. Let me summarize for those who don’t follow football. Towards the end of a game, a team scores but is still behind and needs the ball back. If they kickoff normally the other team will run out the clock and win the game. So, as a last ditch measure, they may elect an onside kick, which is a short kick designed to be recovered by the kicking team. Bob-or-David-or-Whoever, do you know how they expect to recover that ball?
BOB-OR-DAVID-OR-WHOEVER: I still don’t see —
RICK: By forcing an error. They hope the other team will be slow to react, or the ball will bounce off some ham-handed lineman who hasn’t touched a football since high school, or anything else that will put the ball up for grabs. Now, if this doesn’t work, the other team gets great field position and might actually score again. So why does the team that’s behind take that chance?
BOB-OR-DAVID-OR-WHOEVER (Laughing): Any chance we can talk about Cruz now?
RICK: Any minute now. They take that chance because they’re out of options. No-one’s going to put another fifteen minutes back on the clock for them. No-one’s going to reverse any bad calls they got and award them extra points. This is, to paraphrase a recent movie, the best bad idea they have. They can try to force an error, or they can play safe and kid themselves that “We’ll get them next time.”
BOB-OR-DAVID-OR-WHOEVER: So, you’re seriously suggesting the filibuster … the government shutdown … was designed to force an error?
RICK: Yes, and it worked. The pettiness and sheer vindictiveness of the park closures (preventing WWII veterans from seeing their own monument being only one of the most egregious examples) was a colossal error that provided optics the GOP couldn’t have purchased at any price. Ditto Harry Reid’s refusal to pass (or in many cases even take up) individual appropriations bills that would have alleviated the pain in the areas the Democrats themselves decried.
Finally, there was Obama’s scare-mongering, which in clear contradiction to history, facts, and even proposed legislation, raised the specter of debt-default and economic collapse if the debt ceiling wasn’t raised. This was maybe the greatest error because it was so provably false.
Reverting to the football analogy, the Newfoundland Newfs should have been able to exploit these mistakes.
BOB-OR-DAVID-OR-WHOEVER: But ultimately it failed.
RICK: Well, unfortunately right now the Republicans, especially those in the senate, aren’t quite up to the standards of the Newfoundland Newfs. Remember, this is a shock and awe thing — the whole point of that onside kick is to descend upon your opponents like a Visigoth hoard, make them worry about you more than the ball, and be there when the errors happen. In this case not only were some Republicans standing back with their hands on their hips saying “We’ll get them next time,” others were actually spearing our guys from the rear.
Again, we had everything just short of park rangers filling in Grand Canyon, with blue-rinse grandmothers still wandering around below. We had the Democratic senate having a hard think about whether to fund U.S. military death benefits. We had Obama showing the world he would rather crater the world economy than take a backward step on his pet project. And John McCain’s first instinct was to publicly lecture Ted Cruz on decorum.
Now, it could be the Republicans would have lost anyway. We’ll never know. But it’s spectacularly unfair to blame the few who didn’t give up, and who actually articulated and executed a pretty good plan in the circumstances, for the myriad blunders, compromises and outright betrayals that led us to these last ditch measures in the first place — to say nothing of many who are clearly playing for the other team.