Watching the former timidity of Republicans in Congress reminded me of the parents who take little Sammy to the beach for a day of fun and frolic. He runs playfully toward the water and dips his toe into the wavy blue wash.
“Sammy, no!” his mother shouts. “Stay away from the water. I don’t want you to drown or to be bitten by a shark.”
A few minutes later, Sammy is burrowing contentedly into the sand when his mother yells again.
“Sammy, no! Stay away from the sand. I don’t want sand getting in your eyes and mouth. It could cause you to choke or it could damage your vision.”
Before long, Sammy has angled his beach chair toward the sun and is putting on some lotion so he can get a nice tan. His mother’s shrill response is not long in coming.
“Sammy, no! Stay away from the sun. I don’t want you to get a bad burn or Heaven Forbid to get cancer.”
Eventually, Sammy finds a comfortable spot and spends the day slumped over, staring glumly into the distance. As they head home, his exasperated mother feels she must comment to her husband: “I don’t understand these youngsters. They just sit around all day doing nothing. In our days we knew how to have fun!”
The Republicans were long noted for that sort of thing. They would play brinksmanship with the budget or the debt ceiling and the Democrats just sneered. Then the Republicans would announce a compromise offer and the Democrats would sneer again. Finally, weary from all the intensive rounds of negotiating with themselves, the Republicans would announce they were a) doing nothing and b) appointing a blue-ribbon committee to offer future recommendations for possibly one day doing something.
Suddenly those meek Milquetoasts seem to have grown a spine. They are standing up to President Obama and his surly surrogates. They did not blink at all as the shutdown first loomed, then impended, finally arrived. Their principled position did not wilt under the snarls of the administration and the yelps of the press. The Democrats challenged them to put up or shut up, and the Republicans ignored the putdowns and went for the shutdown. All very impressive, warming the cockles of my heart.
Whence all this newfound bravado? True, “Oz never did give nothin’ to the tin man that he didn’t, didn’t already have,” but there must have been some catalyst to awaken their inner warriors.
Several commentators, particularly in international publications, attribute the Republican heavy mettle to some recent input from Putin. Yes, the very same Vladimir V. Putin who writes op-eds for the New York Times. He managed to undo President Obama’s Syria policy with a few deft strokes of the columnar quill. Putin’s pen vanquishing Obama’s sword was one of the unlikelier scenarios of history, but it did show the Republicans that the President could be deked out of his mojo.
Yet I would argue the primary reason for renewed confidence among the GOP is the fact they bring a one-game winning streak to the contest. It ain’t much but even a mere moment of momentum can be momentous. Because they won on the sequester, they have found courage for the battle at hand.
You may recall the advent of the sequester. Last year’s wrangle over the debt ceiling was settled by creating the usual committee to look for cuts in the budget. Not just a committee, we were assured, but a “super-committee” of bipartisan bipolar biped VIPs or some such thing. As a safeguard, just in case the geniuses needed some prodding, there would be an automatic series of cuts which would kick in if they failed to produce a feasible plan.
Not only did they indeed fail to produce, they clearly did not even try. The mock process was a mockery and the sham meetings were a shame. The Democrats on the super-committee went ha-ha-ha and dared the Republicans to go through with the sequester. The President went around the country, predicting the imminent demise of the Republic if the cuts were enacted. The market would crash; the trains would not run; the sun would not rise. The Grand Old Partiers, pressured by constituents, did not budge.
Now, many months later, the sequester is so ingrained I venture to say most people are not aware of its presence.
The other night Jimmy Kimmel did a clever segment on his show where he conducted man-in-the-street interviews asking people if they preferred Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act. Virtually no one knew they were one and the same thing. If I had a show and a camera, I would go out asking these questions: “How has life improved for you since the sequester ended? Do you give President Obama the credit for ending the sequester or do you give Republicans the credit?” I have a crisp C-note that says you will be hard put to find someone who knows it is still in place.
The same is true with the shutdown. Nothing very important is missing in people’s lives just because the non-essential bureaucrats are home catching up on all their essential yard work. You could keep this thing going right through the 2014 election and no one would be the wiser….
Carry on, fellas, we are quite impressed.