Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 19, 2010

NORQUIST THINKS THE GOP WILL WIN FROM ANOTHER SHUTDOWN.... In August, sleazy GOP consultant Dick Morris told a far-right group that in the next Congress, Republicans should do exactly as Gingrich/Dole did 15 years ago, but this time it'll work out better.

"There's going to be a government shutdown, just like in '95 and '96 but we're going to win it this time and I'll be fightin' on your side," Morris boasted.

Grover Norquist is giving his party the same advice.

The head of the influential Americans for Tax Reform is encouraging the new House Republican majority to adopt a take-no-prisoners approach to federal spending -- and if that leads to a 1995-style government shutdown, so be it.

Midterm voters "were voting to stop the Obama spendathon, and that's what people were sent to Washington to do," Norquist said in an interview.

These guys seriously believe that the public would credit Republicans for shutting down the government. Some even think Republicans ended up benefiting from the '95 and '96 efforts.

Going forward, there are two main angles to keep an eye on. The first is whether Republican leaders are crazy enough to think this is a good idea. There's some evidence that GOP officials consider the Gingrich shutdowns to be a mistake -- one they don't intend to repeat. Just this week, Sen.-elect Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said shutting down the government would be "a mistake," adding, "Nobody really wants that." Similarly, incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was recently asked if we're likely to see a replay of 1995. "No. I don't think the country needs or wants a shutdown," Cantor said. He added that when it comes to pursuing their agenda, Republicans "have to be careful" or they'll be "seen as a bunch of yahoos."

The other is whether Republican leaders are going to have much of a choice. The party has told its base that it will not compromise on anything with anyone. It has a legion of freshman joining the ranks on the Hill, and nearly all are rabid right-wing ideologues, who expect Boehner, Cantor, et al, to wage a fierce, partisan war.

Politico noted that Boehner was a Gingrich loyalist in '95, and "people close to him today say he has scant interest in reliving that fight."

Whether the incoming Speaker has the ability to lead his caucus away from that cliff remains to be seen. Norquist and his ilk will surely be making ridiculous demands, and making of the rank-and-file members of the caucus will find those calls compelling.

I hope Republican leaders like the monster they created.

Steve Benen 11:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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You have to remember that Clinton was president in 1995. Now it is Obama who as Carville so colorfully suggested is a testicle short of a full sack. The GOP will threaten and Obama will back down.

Posted by: Terry on November 19, 2010 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Well... one effect of the government shutdowns was to make the Clinton White House more dependent on volunteer interns, bringing Monica Lewinsky into closer contact w/the President. Given that this ended up w/an opportunity to impeach President Clinton for oral sex, it's clear that the GOP consider the shutdown a major success. I imagine that they hope President Obama falls for the same trick.


Posted by: Zorro on November 19, 2010 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Except for the fact that I personally know and have high regard for several hundred people who would lose their jobs, at least temporarily, during a shutdown, and I also know a lot of seniors who would suffer without their social security checks and medicare, I would say: Do you feel lucky, Grover? Well, do you punk? Go ahead, make my day.

Posted by: Ron Byers on November 19, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Are these crazy-ass people viewing a shutdown as an end in itself or a means to an end? In other words, do they have a goal beyond shutting down the federal government in order to show who's boss? If I remember correctly, that was Newt's goal and it kinda backfired on his ass.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on November 19, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

On the face of it, a GOP-led shutdown of the government would be a disaster for them. Clearly, most Republican pragmatists are justifiably nervous about its prospect. But maybe the zealots are onto something. In 1995, there was still enough of an MSM in this country that didn't filter reality through the Culture War. Is that true today? Think about the evenhandedness of journalists afraid of alienating dittoheads and tea partiers. Think how Obama's "reckless spending" would be the background noise of this event. Think how gullible and ignorant voters would respond to the idea of a black president taking away white SS checks.

I'm not saying this will happen. But at this point, we can't take anything for granted.

Posted by: walt on November 19, 2010 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

I don't particularly remember the rhetoric of the first shutdown, but it seems like the right is already trying to frame this as "Obama will shut the government down" by not agreeing to their demands. As patently ridiculous as that is, did the '95 GOP say the same thing about Clinton, or is this a new strategy they've adopted after finding that "blame the victim" works without consequence for them in our modern political climate?

I fear this switch from "we'll shut it down for the good of the country" to "he'll shut it down to the detriment of the country" might be all the rhetorical shift they need to not suffer the same electoral backlash this time around.

Hopefully I'm wrong about that...

Posted by: Will Henderson on November 19, 2010 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

I wish I could be optimistic about the chances of a shutdown accruing to the benefit of Democrats as it did in '94. The conservative media machine has already created myths about the failure of the stimulus, bailouts and HCR despite clear evidence of their successes. I can see the same thing happening with a shutdown - another Obama failure.

Posted by: jim on November 19, 2010 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

When the House votes to raise the debt limit, every Dem should call in sick that day. Boner has enough votes to pass it from his caucus. Let him do so....
Either the Rs fund the gub-ment or they do not. Do not let 1/2 of the House R's vote against it and have it still pass. Either Boner's caucus funds our government or we go into default.

Posted by: joyzeeboy on November 19, 2010 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Shutting down the government while we are fighting TWO overseas wars? Seems a trifle unpatriotic. What would have President Cheney down if the Dems had threatened to cut off funding while he was in charge?

Posted by: Tigershark on November 19, 2010 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP listening to Grover Norquist would be manna from heaven for Dems.

It's time for republicans to show voters the real crazy they've been hiding.

Posted by: bdop4 on November 19, 2010 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Back in 94 the Republicans moved heaven and earth to blame Clinton. If memory serves they thought they had the media on their side. I suspect, then as now, they really did have the media on their side. There is just something about millions of social security checks and medicare payments not being made, hundreds of thousands of government checks made every day to government contractors such as GE not being paid, as well as untold millions of public and private sector layoffs happening all at once that intrudes on the most carefully created media meme. I don't think even Fox News would be able to spin it the way Grover would want. Reality bit Newt in the ass. It will do the same to Boehner.

Posted by: Ron Byers on November 19, 2010 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

That should be: What would have President Cheney "done" if the Dems had threatened to cut off funding while he was in charge?

Posted by: Tigershark on November 19, 2010 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Hiding? since when?

Posted by: Michael on November 19, 2010 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with walt that "we can't take anything for granted."

In 1995, ABC/CBS/NBC had actual news departments that were operated independently of their entertainment departments. In 1995, CNN was owned by the liberal Ted Turner. In 1995, MSNBC and Fox Noise did not exist.

If/when the rethugs shut down the government, you can expect:

- ABC/CBS/NBC/CNN to have continuous programming featuring republicans and DINOs in a battle of he said / he said with no context provided.
-MSNBC to have a mixed message of Mourning Joke blaming it on the dems, Olbermann blaming it on the repukes, and Maddow providing a balanced message that the corporate media will not hear, yet smear.
- Faux News to provide a fair and balanced presentation - repukes to provide the 'fair' part and all of their hosts to provide the hatred of Obama as the 'balanced' part.
- Davids Gergen and Brooks to blame it on Obama not being bipartisan.

In our Amerika, I would not wager that the repukes would not win the publicity battle.

That one political party's goal for the last two years has been the destruction of Obama, without regard for the costs to our country, is not healthy. I suspect that we will have 2 or 6 more years of the same (and it makes me very sad).

Posted by: SadOldVet on November 19, 2010 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

if dick morris masturbates, is that considered having sex with a prostitute?

Posted by: mudwall jackson on November 19, 2010 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Your average American will continue to blame all of the current problems on Obama and the Dems, and they will keep doing so even when the Government shutdown drives this country off of the cliff.

Why won't they see the truth? Why will they keep voting R?

Because the Republicans dominate the conversation. Hell, look at Obama STILL talking about bipartisanship and negotiating in good faith with the other side.

Guess what? You cannot negotiate with zealots. Has he not learned this? Nearly all of the major accomplishments that we made in the past two years were watered down to please the Repug's. . . to be bipartisan. Did that HELP us??

No. The Right still paints Obama as a rampaging socialistic monster. A commie Godzilla. Hell, they will fight us even if they agree with our positions; they will flip-flop rather than work WITH us.

Until Democratic leaders -ESPECIALLY Obama- begin to call out the Repug foolishness, the Right will keep having success at the voting booth.

If the economy is still this bad in 2012 (or after a shutdown, more likely Worse than now) then the Repugs will win full control of Congress and we'll all be saluting President Jeb Bush. Wait and see.

Posted by: Mitch on November 19, 2010 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

You guys don't get it. Except for Fox the big media conglomorates all have divisions deep into government contracting. Shutting down the government would not be good for GE's bottom line. GE would be less than pleased with a government shutdown. So would the other corporate media masters. Now do you begin to get the picture? The media companies, except maybe Fox News, would not be happy with a shutdown. They would know who to blame.

By the way the power of the corporations is why I think Norquist's proposal isn't going anywhere.

Posted by: Ron Byers on November 19, 2010 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Any government shutdown will be blamed on Obama. This is not 1994.

The republicans will successfully tag Obama with the shutdown. And the tea partiers will rally behind them. They hate the government and all things Obama. They 'want their country back'. The republicans will successfully use this issue against Obama in 2012. They will have manufactured a crisis and blame him for it. The Broders and Gergens and the rest of the Villagers will fall in line behind them because he didn't compromise enough or be bipartisan enough.

Posted by: jak on November 19, 2010 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

I don't recall the Republican's being hurt very much by the mid-90's shutdown. After all they won big in '96 and even bigger in '00.

They dominate the conversation and have done a spectacular job of blaming Everything on Obama and the Dems. They will keep doing so, and they will keep winning. I see no way for us to gain even half of the voice that they have.

And, I fear that the main stream media will follow the Repug just as they have since the days of Clinton. Why shouldn't they? The Repugs deliver better sound-bites, tend to come across as more 'down home' and the Tea Party-style hysterics are great for ratings.

Remember Main Stream Media are the same people that decided the single most important quality a President can have is the ability to make you feel like you can sit down and drink a beer with him.

Posted by: Mitch on November 19, 2010 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

It occurs that the people most egging the GOP on to shut down the govt aren't IN the govt.

Posted by: JEA on November 19, 2010 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

I think the right has built such a media network between right wing radio, Fox News and others since the Clinto days They saw with Bush/Cheney the ability to get away with most anything regardless of the severity of the issue.

The fact that 22 percent still supported them when they left office showed that no matter how screwed up things were, they'll hold 22 percent of the public.

The major networks and newspapers don;t help any as they're afraid to challenge the right wing noise machine.

In the up is down and black is white world of right wing media, they just may do it and pin it on dems/Obama

Posted by: BurghMan on November 19, 2010 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

This time when they shut it down, really shut it down - all of it - and see who blinks first.

Posted by: max on November 19, 2010 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

BurghMan. . . there is no "may" about. They WILL shut down the Government and they WILL blame it on Obama and the Dems.

And unless we actually win this media war, they WILL win in 2012. Remember the public doesn't actually think about Congress too much. . . they think about the President. "Bush did this" or "Obama did that" -very seldom does anyone say, "Congress screwed this particular pooch."

Political junkies like us are so far out of the mainstream that we often forget that most people are very, very uninformed. If you don't believe me ask 10 random people how taxes are now compared to during the 1980's.

A word of warning, though: the righties often get very upset when you tell them that Reagan raised taxes. Ignorance is only Bliss until it is challenged.

Posted by: Mitch on November 19, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Norquist is a fool who will die an unhappy man, when he is old and nobody is left who wants to hear his crazy! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on November 19, 2010 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

If the government shuts down, will Congressmen still get their paychecks?

Posted by: kc on November 19, 2010 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

I've got this to say to Tim Walberg (R-MI-7), my incoming congresscritter: I'm a 100% disabled Vietnam veteran, and as such I receive a compensation check every month. If the government shuts down, I don't get my check, and if I don't get my check just because you and a bunch of your chickenhawk teabagger colleagues decide to play chicken with the president over HCR repeal or something stupid I plan to personally be up your ass on a continuous basis.

Posted by: Roger the Cabin Boy on November 19, 2010 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

It all depends on HOW the shut-down occurs.
Yes process DOES matter.

two examples.

A ) Shutdown occurs because Republicans refuse to extend unemployment benefits and demand to extend tax-cuts to the over $250k ...
Republicans are toast.

( BTW: THERE is a horse-trade if I ever saw one. "look we will extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone, but YOU give us an extension of unemployment with one more tier of 21 weeks -- bringing the total to 120 weeks ) for one year."

B ) The EPA delivers on its threat to just implement cap-and-trade or something equivalent as many progressive want Obama to do.
Republicans respond by defunding the EPA.
Obama ( of course ) refuses to sign that.
Shut down.

Obama will get destroyed.

Posted by: Chromehawk on November 20, 2010 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK
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