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October 14, 2013 9:25 AM “There Must Be Some Kind of Way Out of Here, Said the Joker to the Thief”

By Ed Kilgore

In the middle of this last night, the intrepid inside chronicler of the Republican Party’s hostage crisis, National Review’s Robert Costa, allowed as how GOPers are “divided and uneasy:”

Late Sunday, Republican staffers from both chambers were scrambling to reconcile the competing Republican strategies in the House and Senate, but communication has been sporadic. Senate GOP insiders are unsure of whether Senate Democrats will even negotiate unless Republicans cave on sequestration, and House insiders are unsure of whether Speaker John Boehner can keep his fragile conference united.
If things fall apart, Senator Lindsey Graham tells me he’s going to “object” to any deal that doesn’t include a vote on whether congressional employees should continue to receive federal contributions to their health-care plans. For Graham, the effort would be a final attempt to make Democrats endure an uncomfortable vote, should Republicans stumble.
Meanwhile, GOP enthusiasm for the showdown, from both conservatives and grandees, is waning. Members are spending considerable time calling one another to lament, and they’re worried about fading public support. “We can’t get lower in the polls. We’re down to blood relatives and paid staffers now,” said Senator John McCain on CBS’s Face the Nation. “But we’ve got to turn this around, and the Democrats had better help.”

In case your attention has drifted during this manufactured crisis, House Republicans forced a government shutdown and threatened a debt default in pursuance of a series of demands that changed almost hourly but never failed to smell to high heaven of hubris. Accompanying this attempted stick-up was an equally audacious fallback: a p.r. campaign to convince the public (and many more-than-willing journalists) Democrats were at least equally to blame for the crisis because of their refusal to make immediate concessions. Now that this half-a-loaf strategy seems to have failed, too, GOPers are demanding at least a few concessions so that they don’t have to admit failure to a puzzled and angry “base” that had been told a crushing victory over the evil president and his satanic health care law was in clear sight. And I’m sure we are just hours from a batch of op-eds urging said evil president and his party to show their “wisdom” by throwing John Boehner and Mitch McConnell life-lines to a face-saving “compromise” that will probably include both overall funding concessions plus some Obamacare nicks, and quite likely a fresh opportunity to go through the same extortion effort not too far down the road.

I’m not responsible for the health of the U.S. economic system, and I can only imagine the pressure the White House is feeling as it watches the minutes tick down to the opening of the New York Stock Exchange this morning after the high expectations on Friday of a quick deal faded over the weekend. You can even make an argument that Democrats need to proactively prevent the humiliation of Boehner and McConnell because their successors would be so much worse. But it remains outrageous that those who resisted this whole unnecessary nightmare have an obligation to reward its chief perpetrators, who will then try to preen and strut before the “base” about how they tricked the godless liberals into surrender.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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