“There is no possibility of a government shutdown. Remember me? I’m the guy that gets us out of government shutdowns,”
— Soon-to-be-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to Time magazine
The lefties over at Think Progress were elated.
It was September 30, 2013, and they thought they had the GOP right where they wanted it as Texas Senator Ted Cruz plowed ahead with the idea of defunding Obamacare — an action that caused Democrats to promptly shut down the government — and blame not just Cruz but the Republican Party. The whole event was giving prominent Republicans in and out of office the political willies.
Think Progress loved it. So much did they love it that they spent some time making a list of Republican senators, congressmen, governors, ex-office holders, potential presidential candidates, lobbyists and pundits who were spreading the word. That word? If Senator Cruz went ahead with his plan, it was some version of curtains for the GOP. The party would be toast.
Cruz sailed on, confident he would be seen not only as right — but that what he was doing was a boost to the GOP. It was, in fact, the exact same strategy that Ronald Reagan employed when he would veto a bill knowing full well he would be overridden by both Democrats and less than courageous Republicans in Congress — yet issuing the veto to draw a line between Democrats and Republicans so Americans would understand the bright line that was supposed to divide the two parties. At The American Spectator dinner last fall at which Cruz, along with Donald Trump, was featured? Cruz was candid. He recounted his criticisms from GOP colleagues in the Senate and noted that he had asked them for their alternative. Cruz paused, then said that the response he got was “the sound of crickets chirping.”
As Republicans sit back having now increased their majority in the House and won control of the Senate in a nationwide landslide, let’s go back a year and see just who was totally convinced Ted Cruz was leading the GOP to disaster. You can find it here but I will note some of the names in this space.
First? The headline that was used. This priceless headline:
49 Republicans Who Say Shutting Down The Government Over Obamacare Is A Big Mistake.
Got that? A BIG mistake. Next followed the list of Republican naysayers. It was bad strategy, some said. It was going to do real damage to the GOP, some said. It was just plain dumb, some said. Here with names and quotes and big hat tip to Think Progress — the following:
- Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): “In the United States Senate, we will not repeal, or defund, Obamacare. We will not. And to think we can is not rational.”
- Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ): “I think there’s got to be a solution other than that. And I don’t think that we should be doing that. I don’t think — and I quite frankly, be fair, I don’t think you hear responsible Republican leaders advocating a shutdown of the government.”
- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush: “So as we get closer to these deadlines, there needs to be an understanding of that, or politically it’s quite dicey for the Republican Party.”
- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: “We’re more effective tactically not to use a shutdown of some kind to pursue the… anti-Obamacare objective. I don’t think that will be as effective.”
- Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN): The Washington Post reports that Corker compared shutting down the government to a way that buffalo were slaughtered in the Old West: “I know when you get led into a box canyon what that means… Box canyon, here we come.”
- Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX): “[W]e’re at the point now where we can’t shut down the government. It’s like burning down the house to get rid of the mice or rats… I don’t think very many think that a government shutdown is in the best interests of the economy and will actually accomplish the goal that’s set out.”
- Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI): “I believe the Affordable Care Act is anything but affordable, and will have a negative impact on the economy of my state… But I don’t extend that to the point that we should shut down the government over it.”
- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI): “We have to stay on the right side of public opinion… Shutting down the government puts us on the wrong side. The fight is on the debt limit.”
- Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK): Asked on MSNBC on Monday if a shutdown was “going to hurt the Republicans,” Cole said, “I do, but more importantly I think it’s going to hurt the American people.”
- Rep. Peter King (R-NY): “We should not be closing down the government under any circumstances… That doesn’t work, it’s wrong, and, you know, Obamacare passed. We have to try to defund it, we have to try to find ways to repeal it. But the fact is, we shouldn’t be using it as a threat to shut down the government.”
- Charles Krauthammer: Krauthammer deemed his fellow GOPer’s approach to defunding Obamacare misguided, going so far as to call them the “suicide caucus.”
- Karl Rove: “It’s an iron law that Republicans get blamed for any government shutdown, no matter who controls the White House or Congress.”
- George Will: In a piece titled “Shutdown would hand president more excuses,” Will excoriated Republicans for drumming up drama that will win them no victories. “Republicans should vote,” he wrote, “more in sorrow than in anger, to fund the government (at sequester levels, a significant victory) and to increase the debt ceiling. “
- David Frum: “All in all, it’s hard to see any positive outcome emerging for Republicans from this confrontation. Yet the party is charging forward anyway…. Even when pressed to do something overwhelmingly likely to end in disaster, as this shutdown looks likely to do for Republicans, the party has no way to stop itself. It stumbles into fights it cannot win, gets mad, and then in its anger lurches into yet another fight that ends in yet another loss.”
- Nicolle Wallace: A former spokesman for President Bush, Wallace compared the radical wing of the GOP that’s moving toward a shutdown to a two year old trying to run a red light on a scooter. “When Republicans run into the street despite the fact there’s a flashing red light,” she said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “they’re gonna get hit by the cars and killed.”
- Doug Holtz-Eakin: Holtz-Eakin says that Republicans have “put themselves in a corner” and that their strategy won’t work. “The public budget debate has been hijacked by a vociferous minority of activist conservatives aligned with a number of outside activist groups led by the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz and former Sen. Jim DeMint,” he wrote in an op-ed against the shutdown approach.
- Matt Dowd: “Everybody is going to lose when the government shuts down. Nobody is going to think better about either party,” Dowd warned. “Republicans will lose more in the course of this if this continues over time.”
There’s more, of course. But — with no offense to any of those quoted — they all got it wrong. Not just wrong, but Big Time Wrong. A week ago the Republican Party — barely a year away from the government shut down these folks were bewailing in various terms as bad strategy that “will lose more” for Republicans than Democrats — won a blowout election.
Again, the Republicans increased the House GOP majority, as of this writing, to 244 seats, the biggest advantage since the Truman administration. (Note to those who came in late: Harry Truman left office in January of 1953 — 61 years ago.) The GOP recaptured the Senate, with a majority ranging from 52 to 54 seats depending on undecided results. They gained governors in the bluest of blue states of Maryland, Massachusetts, and Illinois. And on went the red tide, washing over state legislatures as well.
What Ted Cruz accomplished last fall was drawing a very bright Reaganesque line that differentiated Republicans from Democrats. Political disaster was uniformly predicted. Instead? The exact opposite happened.
Will Republicans learn anything here?
“There is no possibility of a government shutdown. Remember me? I’m the guy that gets us out of government shutdowns,” says Senator McConnell.
Do you think Mitch McConnell makes the connection between the government shutdown of 2013 and the fact that he is about to become Senate Majority Leader?
What do you think?