The bad news for the Obama Administration is the Obamacare rollout is every bit the train wreck Max Baucus said it would be. The good news is nobody knows about it, except for the millions who have lost their insurance thanks to Obamacare reforms.
Everyone else is distracted by the Republican-led government shutdown. The GOP has thrown away a tremendous political advantage. Coming after the historic Republican gains in 2010, the Democrats’ insistence on forcing an unworkable, progressively unpopular program down the American people’s throats almost guaranteed a further shellacking in 2014..
Not even a compliant media could have spun this one in Obama favor. The people wouldn’t need NBC Nightly News to tell them how bad things were going. They would have had the evidence of their own experience to inform them. The next year would have been a steadily unfolding disaster, a platform on which to build a powerful run for power. Republicans could have benefitted from an increasingly frustrated, ever more discombobulated President insisting that failure was actually success, that he never lied to them, that war is peace and work makes you free.
All Republicans had to do was allow the thing they couldn’t stop to unfold. Unfortunately, there is a certain brand of zealotry which will not tolerate success. Unable to stop Obamacare’s launch, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz pulled the stupidest Republican stunt since Larry Craig tap danced in a Minnesota toilet stall. He took a wide stance on his principles. Like William Wallace before him, or at least Mel Gibson’s interpretation of the willful Scot, Cruz announced, “Every man dies, but not every man has the chance to read Dr. Suess for 21 hours on the Senate floor.”
It was so utterly predictable. How could they think they would not be blamed? From the moment they floated the defunding option, media wonks triggered the shutdown countdown. Obama, staring disaster in the face, didn’t even have to call on Putin. He didn’t need to launch cruise missiles, his salvation was on Cruz control. Obama immediately announced he would not negotiate something as sacred as a budget. Never in the history of the world had anyone ever had the temerity to negotiate a budget. It just wasn’t done. Of course it was a lie, but if a truth falls in the presser and there is nobody around to report it, does it count a lie? Apparently not.
Conservative pundits pounded out article after article praising Cruz and the Gang for their strategic brilliance. It wouldn’t be the Republicans shutting down the government, they noted, it would be Obama, or Senate Democrats. The Republicans had cleverly forced the Democrats into a corner where they would either have to agree to defund Obamacare, or they would vote to shut down the government.
How could anyone have imagined this would work? You cannot outmaneuver master manipulators, especially when they own those who tell the people what is happening. From the beginning Republicanshutdown was a compound noun. Didn’t anyone think to study what happened back in 1996, the last time “Republicans shut down the government?” Did they recall that twice Republicans passed budgets (this was back in the day when Congress actually negotiated and passed budgets) which Bill Clinton vetoed? Twice. He vetoed the budget twice. The government shut down, and Republicans got the blame.
How could they think it wouldn’t happen this time? The smart thing would have been to pass a “clean” continuing resolution, along with a resolution authorizing the President to delay the individual mandate for a year. The resolution could have spelled out all the problems inherent in the rollout, including the woefully under-powered, incompetently designed healthcare.gov, as justification for the delay. It wouldn’t have survived the Senate, and if it had, Obama would have vetoed it. In other words, the Republicans could have forced Obama and the Democrats to take ownership of what is in fact theirs. They could have spent the next year calling for action to improve or salvage the program, all the while reminding people that they tried to delay implementation.
Opportunity lost, to be sure. No, worse than lost, actively thrown away. These clever Republicans have managed to maneuver themselves into a corner They make Obama’s whimpering over Syria look statesmanlike. The vast majority of Americans blame the GOP for shutting down the government. They blame them for barricaded parking lots, rest areas and open air monuments. The truth has nothing to do with it, and that’s something they should have been smart enough to realize from the start.
They weren’t, which is why next November, while they may not lose the House–thanks to gerrymandering–they won’t regain the Senate. And every vote they do receive will be cast by someone holding his nose and muttering, “I’m with stupid.”