It’s not true that both sides are responsible for the government shutdown the Republicans caused, and blaming both parties is, quite simply, a lie.
It is not even a well-disguised lie. We all watched Republican House members in the process of turning the government off. We saw the lead up, we saw them threaten to do it, and then we saw them do it. Now, as we see them continue to do it, we see them make demands, like hijackers with a hostage, and they keep the government shutdown going while their demands are not met.
Does that fit any rational person’s definition of this being both sides’ fault?
The situation was summed up in a quote read on the floor of Congress today by Representative Mike Doyle (D-Pennsylvania). This was something that started as a Twitter post by ThinkProgress Editor-in-Chief Judd Legum. The summary took the form of an imagined dialogue, and it went like this:
“Can I burn down your house?”
“Just the 2nd floor?”
“Let’s talk about what I can burn down.”
“YOU AREN’T COMPROMISING!”
Just a silly joke, right? Sadly, this joke is also a dead accurate assessment of the exact current position of Republicans in the House of Representatives.
The Republicans want to burn the government down if they don’t get to control it.
It is hard to understand how the GOP expects to get away with switching from a public message of “Obamacare is so bad that to stop it we have to shut down the government” to “We aren’t the ones who have shut down the government.”
Even without saying whether the shutdown is good or bad, or that both sides don’t bear blame for other issues, it is a demonstrable, documented fact that Republicans in Congress caused this shutdown. Months of television commercials starring Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee advertised how they wanted to use the strategy of tying government funding to defunding Obamacare. Senators and House members in these same Republicans’ own party said that what they were trying to do would shut down the government, and that it was a bad idea. Speaker of the House John Boehner was documented as fighting against the strategy he was later cornered into embracing by the extremist wing of his party. Then, when the Senate passed a law to fund the government without any pre-conditions, Republicans in the House voted against it. In fact, there is a lot of evidence that Republicans have been planning to shutdown the government since 2010.
All of this is public record. Yet Republicans believe they can now convince that they are not responsible.
How is that plausible? Do they just imagine no one has been paying attention? Is the Republican opinion of the American public that low?
Obviously, the lie is a matter of necessity, of political survival. Republicans point out that Obamacare is unpopular, and it is, but it is nowhere near as unpopular as the shutdown. As they watch the party’s poll numbers dive, the Republicans who didn’t want the shutdown—having been strong-armed by their colleagues who did want it—are forced to make the best of a bad situation they tried to avoid. They have to deny that their party is responsible for the PR disaster which, to be fair, only some of them wanted to happen. Blaming extremists in the GOP won’t work, so they have try and pin the blame on Democrats.
And now, having gotten to this point where the chances of their re-election gets lower every day, moderate Republicans have to look for a way to win, while Tea Party extremists—who mostly live in safe districts where the opinions of non-extremists are irrelevant to their re-elections—think they’re winning already.
So now, they need to exact some kind of concession from the President. The moderates, especially, have no choice. The Republicans have to convince the American people that Democrats are responsible for what members of their party forced to happen. Then, they have to use that belief to force the Senate and President to negotiate with a metaphorical gun to their head. Then, they have to extract some kind of victory in said negotiations, then go back to their voters and say, “It was all worth it, because we got X.” As Republican Representative Marlin Stutzman (R-Indiana) was shockingly willing to say publicly, “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”
As Senator John McCain pointed out today on Pier Morgan Live, Obamacare was never going to get defunded, not until there were 67 Republicans in the Senate who could overcome the President’s veto. So it is hard to understand what the endgame was when extremists like Ted Cruz pushed the shutdown in the first place.
What did they expect to win? No one seem to know. But now they have to win it anyway, they have no choice.
And to win their whatever-it-is, the Republicans have to convince the public they did not cause the shutdown. Even though we saw them do it.
In some ways, it is hard not to feel sorry for the non-Tea Party Republicans. They are cornered in a shutdown they did not want, but now they have to embrace it to stay in office, while also shifting the blame for it away from their party, despite the fact that literally all available evidence says their party did in fact do it. It is also hard to imagine they are not pretty angry at their Far Right colleagues.
But while their position is pitiable, the fact remains that they and their party are trying to perpetrate a lie against the American people. Don’t let them.
There’s a horrible saying that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. But what that really means is, the repeated lie remains a lie, but people believe it. Right now, in the name of artificial balance, America’s news media organizations are putting people telling the truth next to people speaking falsehoods, and repeating the deception that both sides are to blame. The question is, will their repeating this enough sway the American people?
The facts remain simple: the Republicans caused the shutdown, and their strategy of blaming the other side, or even both sides, is just a lie.
UPDATE: In the interview video clip below, Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein affirms that the any coverage which makes blame for the shutdown “50/50” is a lie.
Written By: Jeremy Forbing