Last week, after threatening to entirely defund the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare, the Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to put forward a continuing resolution to keep normal government operations going that did not also delay Obamacare for a year — which, in terms of logic and history, is rather like refusing to keep the government going unless we also get a year off from the Civil Rights Act, which we understand is what the GOP will try next if they can get away with this one.
Obama and the Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid didn’t go for it and Week One of the 2013 shutdown was on. In the run-up, some conservatives had cold feet, but this time rightbloggers went all-in for the big win. Their consensus was that 1.) the shutdown is absolutely the right and patriotic thing to do and 2.) it’s all Obama’s fault.
Along with rah-rah for the Republicans (“In Case Republicans In D.C. Haven’t Noticed, They’re WINNING The Shutdown Fight“), we got a lot of talk about “President Obama’s shutdown,” as Allen Ginzburg‘s post at Red Alert Politics had it.
“One thing that has been ignored in this discussion is that President Obama has publicly declared he is refusing to negotiate on these issues,” wrote Ginzburg. “…[The Administration] has made efforts to deal with Syria, Iran, and the Taliban — but it is simply refusing to look for common ground with Republicans.” “Obama’s Shutdown: Don’t Be Fooled,” wrote Ryan Hite at Eagle Forum. “President Obama and Harry Reid’s Senate are holding national parks, monuments, buildings, and federal employees hostage until Republicans and the public give in to their demands.”
“Obama’s Iron Fisted Shutdown Of America,” declared Ironic Surrealism. “Is This the GOP Shutdown — Or President Obama’s?” asked Bernard Goldberg; guess how he answered. “All the president and his equally hyper-partisan pal Harry Reid over in the senate had to do was throw the Republicans a bone,” said Goldberg — for example, another 20 years at least of people getting treatment for fatal illnesses in emergency rooms and of America as the civilized world’s last national healthcare holdout. And he won’t do it. What a dick!
Nick Gillespie, whose Reason magazine is the flagship of conservatives who prefer to down-low as “libertarians,” headlined “Obama Deserves Chief Responsibility for Gov’t Shutdown,” because “He’s the deciderer, right, the top dog?… it’s your name on the era.” True, the Republicans had put up the ridiculous bills, but Obama was being “peevish,” said Gillespie — why, just the other day Obama said, “[Republicans are] not doing me a favor by paying for things that they have already approved for the government to do.” Plus, Obama “blames Congress for ‘dysfunction.'” Hmmph! Gillespie showed his superior self-control by comparing Obama to “a head-in-the-clouds grad-school layabout.” But he also said some bad things about Bush, so don’t worry, “libertarians,” your girlfriends will never know.
No such campaign is complete without a few rounds of Blame the Media. “The Christian Science Monitor does its bit for the MSM narrative that Republicans are the cause of everything evil in Washington, D.C., both in the past and today,” announced National Review‘s Michael Auslin. The Monitor had not only mentioned the holy name of Newt Gingrich, who’d run a highly unsuccessful shutdown run in 1995; it had also quoted another publication quoting former GOP congressional staff member John Lawing to the effect that Gingrich was a “‘take no prisoners’ kind of Speaker,'” which was simply more liberal media bias than Auslin could take, spurring him on for three paragraphs about how mean Democrats had been to the dangerous lunatic Robert Bork. “Back then no one may have heard of Saul Alinsky,” said Auslin, “but the tactics were the same…” Saul Alinsky! Drink!
At National Review John Fund told readers to be brave, that Gingrich had actually almost won the 1995 shutdown; this time for sure! Also, Democratic officials were sounding “defensive and petulant in their public statements,” said Fund. Why, the other day Obama called Republicans “reckless and irresponsible.” If only Americans judged these things by tone of voice!
PJ Media Ozymandias Roger L. Simon thought this would be a great time for “a Republican ‘charm offensive’ toward the American people. Start to seduce them… This doesn’t mean, of course, you don’t tell the truth. This isn’t rehashed ‘compassionate conservatism.’ It’s more pragmatic than that — and frankly more cynical.” Well, at least Simon’s finally admitting that no one’s paying attention to him.
The Obama Administration said, okay, you want a shutdown, you’ll get a shutdown, and they started putting barricades around monuments in Washington and the surrounding area. Rightbloggers raged — they hate government, but not the telegenic parts!
So while cancer patients were turned away from the NIH and the WIC program to feed children ran low on money — and really, who cares — rightbloggers wrestled national attention toward the World War II Memorial in Washington, at which a crowd of veterans were helped past some barricades by a bunch of Republican Congressmen, which was declared a great victory over Obama’s cruelty toward The Greatest Generation.
“‘Greatest generation’ veterans sweep past barricades at memorial in their honor,” cried Fox News. “Why the malice towards the greatest generation?” asked Tea Party at Perrysburg. “Greatest Generation Storm the Beaches of Washington DC,” cheered Conservative Byte. “The Greatest Generation teaches those in DC a lesson in backbone and courage,” apotheosized Diane Sori of The Dryer Report. “The Dems tried to play games with the shutdown and figuratively tried to spit in the face of the greatest American generation of all time,” snarled AJStrata of The Strata-Sphere.
The Battle of Who Gives a Shit became the subject of more purple rightblogger prose than any event since 9/11, e.g. Matthew Vadum at FrontPageMag: “…jackbooted police refused to allow World War II veterans to make a pilgrimage to the open-air Washington, D.C., memorial that was created to honor them. As a whiff of fascism blows through the nation’s capital, the president is demonstrating to the whole world how revoltingly out-of-control the hyper-bloated U.S. government…” argh blargh etc.
“Obama admin. knew about WWII veterans’ request and rejected it,” hollered Charles C. Johnson at The Daily Caller. “Obama really seems to be going out of his way to piss off veterans, doesn’t he?” sniffed Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit. “If the Nazis couldn’t keep them out of France, Harry Reid can’t keep them out of their memorial,” roared Vision to America. “The White House and Democrats seem determined to prove their own toughness by punishing the least deserving,” wrote the Washington Post‘s Kathleen Parker, for which John Boehner owes her dinner at least.
Later, the Vietnam Memorial was also treated as closed, which enraged Hot Air’s Jazz Shaw to metaphor, and bathos: “After the previous incidents with veterans and the added expenditures involved in closing open spaces to keep veterans from paying their respects to the Honored Dead one would assume that even a novice politician would move to staunch the bleeding,” claimed Shaw. “But instead, it seems that the White House is doubling down…” Bleeding and doubling down! They must really hate both Greatest Generations!
Days later, William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection was still celebrating V-O Day: “WWII Vet – Removing Iwo Jima Memorial Barricades ‘Blew My Mind … It Was Great,'” headlined Jacobson. “This World War II Veteran… could not contain his joy at moving the barricades at the Iwo Jima Memorial.” Beating Hitler was pretty good, but this! (Elsewhere from Jacobson: “Barry-cades become symbol of Obama’s shutdown.”) National Review‘s David French threatened to sue Obama over the closings unless “there is a sufficient — and proper — public response,” like maybe someone treating him like a big man.
The punchline to all this is that the Obama Administration has been the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ best friend in years, if you go for a very dark sort of humor.
After they’d squeezed as much juice out of the veterans as they could, the more adventuresome among the brethren went out looking for more outrageous outrages from the Obama shutdown.
For example, in a post originally bylined “The Editors” but eventually credited to Mona Charen, who must have lost a bet, National Review complained that “two scenic overlooks” on the George Washington Parkway had been closed for the government shutdown. “To close them required someone to come and put up barricades, thus costing taxpayers money,” cried Charen — and that’s just a small part of the $12.5 million an hour Obama is costing the country with his shutdown! “Is there anyone in the Obama administration with common sense?” Charen asked. “Do they not see how petty and over-reaching this makes them look?” Boy, Boehner better hit an ATM before he goes out the house anymore.
The pickings became increasingly slim outrage-wise, as seen in this sad roundup by new National Review bet-loser Kate Zickel (“Any guesses on how long Nancy Pelosi’s paycheck during the shutdown would fund the Botanic Gardens operations and staff?” Why does President Obummer hate our veterans and pretty flowers?)
This search for appropriate optics led some rightbloggers to unfortunate credulousness. A rightwing satire site ran a story about Obama personally funding a “Muslim Museum” while the monuments closed, and several of the brethren reported it as fact, including our old friends at the Western Center for Journalism (“Obama closes all that he can to inflict pain onto the American people because of the Government shutdown, and at the same time writes a Government check to open the International Museum Of Muslim Culture”), Before It’s News, Godlike Productions, and other bottom-feeder sites including The Free Patriot, whose correspondent Brandon Walker ran over 5,000 words of splenetic commentary (“the International Museum of Muslim Culture is sacred and needs to be kept open? Folks these are not my words, they are President Obama’s words”), and was deluged with comments warning him it was bullshit (“That is not the correct photo – that is the Milwaukee Art Museum in Milwaukee WI”) before Free Patriot took the page down (our link is to a cached version).
Oh, yeah, and Fox News ran with it too, as you may have figured, even if your grandma hasn’t sent you a chain email about it yet.
Still they grasped for straw. Anything Obama said about the shutdown became further proof that he was responsible for the shutdown, and not in a good way. When he said Wall Street “should be concerned” because the Republicans seem also to be ready to default on America’s loan obligations, PJ Media’s Bryan Preston cried, “Obama Tries to Trigger a Stock Market Crash… If the Dow drops Thursday, we may trace it straight back to the president’s comments.” Oddly, neither Preston nor his colleagues have attributed to Obama the enormous stock market rally of the past few years. Maybe his power is only to destroy!
Other operatives worked other, more obtuse angles. One problem for rightbloggers is that even some anti-Obamacare outlets have been telling them to give it up, because Obamacare’s a done deal — “It is bad legislation, but it is the law of the land,” as the Tuscaloosa News had it. Remember that Supreme Court case last year that all the conservatives were expecting to render Obamacare illegitimate, and how sad they were when it didn’t? Never happened, said National Review‘s Andrew McCarthy last week: “Of all the fraud perpetrated in the passage of Obamacare — and the fraud has been epic — the lowest is President Obama’s latest talking point that the Supreme Court has endorsed socialized medicine as constitutional. To the contrary, the justices held the ‘Affordable’ Care Act unconstitutional as Obama presented it to the American people: namely, as a legitimate exercise of Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce.”
This probably doesn’t comport with what you thought you saw with your own lying eyes. You could peruse McCarthy’s whole tortured argument (“note the crucial qualifier: Obamacare could be upheld only as a tax. Not that Obamacare is necessarily a legitimate tax…”), or you could read one of the other rightbloggers who’ve picked up his argument and added a few gallons of froth (“ObamaCare is a power grab conducted in defiance of the law… ObamaCare is alien software utterly incompatible with the American system expected to run it”).
Or you could just leave it at this: The Republicans are in fact doing just what they appear to be doing — namely, rolling high on the public’s mistrust of Obamacare and hoping that, as they have forgotten about the sequester and how it continues to fuck things up, citizens will soon forget the shutdown and its ravages, and maybe even forget (if they ever knew) how badly Republican intransigence has damaged the economy in general, and blame everything on Big Gummint as they have been encouraged to do for years.
“This week has been so frustrating that most American have begun to assume governing is impossible and the government is populated by fools and knaves,” wrote Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post with a pre-chilled pat of butter in her mouth. That’s what they hope you’ll think, anyway, and what the tsunami of rightblogger bullshit that accompanies this shutdown is meant to help accomplish.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 6, 2013