If you want an example of how out of touch media commentators can be with American politics, look no farther than the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart. Barack Obama’s cave on tax hikes in the debt deal clearly annoyed Capehart, who criticized the President for his lack of “aggressiveness” that resulted in a deal that doesn’t reflect “the will of the people” — at least as Capehart sees it. Calling the Tea Party-backed Congressmen “carjackers,” Capehart called on Obama to be “Keyser Söze.” But that’s not the only place where Capehart’s perspective departs from reality:
If you’ve seen the brilliant movie “The Usual Suspects,” you know who this diabolical character is and what he did to gain mythical status. Suffice it to say that Söze so out-crazied the crazies that he became a person not to be messed with — a symbol of fear and grudging respect.
In the coming fights over the next budget, unemployment benefits and payroll tax cuts, I want Obama to show the Republican Party in general and the Tea Party in particular that he isn’t afraid to out-crazy the crazies. If that means vetoing bills, taking the fight to individual districts, shutting down the government, so be it.
We’ve already seen this strategy play out twice. Here in Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton reneged on his pledge not to shut down the government over his demand for tax hikes, refusing to negotiate a “lights on” bill with the Republican-controlled legislature to avoid the shutdown. How did that work out for Dayton? He rushed back to the capital to cut a deal without tax hikes when his own allies gave him a blast of disapproval in town-hall meetings around the state, while most Minnesotans barely noticed the difference. The shutdown only hurt Dayton’s voter base of unions and the poor. Instead of Keyser Söze, Dayton turned into Eric von Zipper.
Next, Harry Reid tried doing the same thing with the FAA. Unfortunately for Reid, his ploy was rather obvious; he had failed to move an authorization bill in the Senate and hoped that the prospect of putting thousands of government bureaucrats out of work would embarrass conservatives. After the media started grilling Reid on why he hadn’t done anything to move a Senate version of the bill, as well as realizing that putting bureaucrats out of work wasn’t exactly causing Tea Party activists to weep into their pillows at night, and especially after it became obvious that the system ran pretty well without them, Reid ended up quickly surrendering. Instead of Keyser Söze, Reid turned into Jeffrey Goines.
If Capehart doesn’t realize that the Tea Party activists in Congress want to shut down large portions of the federal government, what has he been doing the last two years? A partial government shutdown would please the Tea Party to no end. The only people it would hurt will be Obama’s own constituencies, especially since the entitlement checks would still have to go out to recipients, as those are mandated by statute and not budgeted annually by Congress. The biggest loser in an Obama-triggered shutdown would be Obama himself.
Maybe Capehart should spend some time talking with actual Tea Party activists before coming up with grand strategies like this.
Addendum: To answer Capehart’s question, Söze got the advantage over his competitors by murdering his own family, murdering all of his competitors afterward, and then disappearing. I’m not sure what relation that has to American governance — or to carjackers, for that matter, since The Usual Suspects didn’t have any of either. This analogy leaves a lot to be desired, including taste and the “civility” that Democrats spent the last six months demanding not just of Republican politicians but also conservative commentators.