House GOP looking for a “hail Mary”?

posted at 12:01 pm on October 3, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

“Can’t anyone here play this game?” That’s an old Casey Stengel quote, and it’s the theme of my column today at The Fiscal Times, too.  Republicans have more or less put themselves in a cul-de-sac with the budget showdown over ObamaCare, especially now that it has rolled out, and stepped on the news cycle that could have been the best day ever for opponents of the ACA.  Fortunately for Republicans, that gift will keep on giving, as reports from the state make very clear, and we will no doubt have plenty of opportunities to underscore that message as the weeks roll along.

For Democrats, though, a shutdown should also have been a golden opportunity.  The White House has significant control over which functions get funded and which don’t, while the Senate could have kept pressure on by responding to individual crises and highlighting them for maximum public-relations effect. Instead, Harry Reid boots a question in a press conference that loses him at least one news cycle, while the White House and Barack Obama managed to do even worse over the first two days of shutdown, and even before it:

What did Barack Obama and his allies do? Obama claimed that Republican demands for negotiations on the debt ceiling amounted to “extortion” – despite the fact that Obama voted to oppose such an increase in 2006 as Senator.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to negotiate at all on continuing resolutions passed by the House, insisting that Republicans were holding “a gun to our head.”

Obama communications adviser Dan Pfeiffer – who should be helping to craft a strategic message to raise his boss’ leadership profile – compared House Republicans to terrorists on CNN’s The Lead, telling Jake Tapper, “What we’re not for is negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest.” This came, it should be noted, on the same day in which Pfeiffer’s boss called Iranian president Hassan Rouhani to negotiate on nuclear weapons.  The State Department considers Iran one of the chief state sponsors of terrorists. …

The first day of the shutdown, though, the National Parks Service tried closing the memorial down to a group of World War II veterans who had traveled to Washington to see it, claiming that the shutdown cut off access to it. Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), who accompanied the veterans, asked the White House to back off, only to get the brush-off himself. Instead, Palazzo took down the barricade himself to give the veterans access to the memorial honoring their own service in a park that is open to everyone anyway.

Did the White House learn a lesson from this PR debacle? Apparently not.   As Elizabeth Scalia points out, the President could have met veterans at the memorial the next day to express his appreciation for their service and toured the memorial with them. That would have given Obama some much-needed positive coverage and an opportunity to pressure Republicans into retreat without having to enter negotiations himself.

Instead, the National Parks Service spent Day 2 of its supposed shutdown by hoisting more barricades with forklifts to surround the memorial before more octogenarian and nonagenarian veterans could arrive. That took seven NPS security personnel, which Washington Examiner reporter Charlie Spiering noted was two more people than the Obama administration committed to security for the consulate in Benghazi a year ago.

Some Republican critics of the shutdown strategy based their opposition on an assumption that Obama would be at least politically competent, and would know enough to follow Bill Clinton’s playbook.  Clinton would never have allowed the opportunity to assist the World War II veterans slip through his fingers, and he would have made sure that White House press corps personnel followed him every step of the way through the memorial — and probably back to the White House to give the Greatest Generation a personal tour there, too, just to remind the media that tours have otherwise been shut down by the sequester.  Could anyone have predicted just how much Obama and the Democrats would have helped the GOP in the first few days of the shutdown?

Unfortunately for those furloughed, that gives Republicans less incentive to give up and vote on a clean CR, at least before the debt-ceiling expiration looms.  Byron York reports that House Republican leadership has run out of plays, but that may not concern them as much as it did a couple of days ago:

Wednesday was the best day in a while for Republicans, but not because of any progress they made toward their goal of defunding, delaying, or limiting Obamacare as part of a resolution to fund the government. Rather, Wednesday was a good day because Democrats handled their end of the crisis so badly. First, the Obama administration inexplicably went out of its way to barricade popular open-air monuments and memorials on the Washington DC mall, in particular closing off the World War II memorial to groups of elderly, Greatest Generation veterans who had come to the capital to pay their respects to a heroic moment in American history. Republicans couldn’t believe what they were seeing. “That looked atrocious,” said one well-connected GOP strategist, who suggested it proved once and for all that the ham-handed Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton when it comes to handling a government shutdown. …

So what now? House Speaker John Boehner and leading Republicans like Paul Ryan and Dave Camp are apparently reviving the old goal of a “grand bargain” — a budget deal that would include entitlement reforms, tax reform, and a new budget agreement, while also restoring government spending and raising the debt ceiling. The idea is that with the debt ceiling deadline coming up on Oct. 17, Republicans and Democrats could fix all, or at least many, of their problems in one fell swoop.

Such “grand bargain” attempts have failed in the past, and there is little reason to believe one will succeed now. And not just because Obama and Democrats are intransigent, which they are. The fact is, this is Oct. 3, meaning there are just two weeks before the nation hits the debt ceiling. Could Republicans get even their end of a “grand bargain” together in time? “Look at tax reform,” said the GOP strategist. “If you took Democrats out of the mix entirely, I don’t think Republicans could come up with a tax reform package by Oct. 17. There is a huge range of opinion on what direction to take.” The first “grand bargain” Republicans would have to reach would be among themselves.

The GOP probably can’t count on Obama being the gift that keeps on giving for another two weeks, but don’t expect anything to budge until Republicans actually lose a news cycle. That may not be soon, if the odd presidential meeting to say nothing new last night is any indication.

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Skip the Hail Mary. Keep sending individual CR’s to the Senate until everything except Obamacare is funded. Then give every Republican a list to hold up whenever they meet a reporter and say We are not holding these functions or the people employed in these departments hostage, the Dems are.

They can also add that every day the list of reasons grows longer as to why the wise and right thing to do is for federal government to abandon the Affordable Care Act.

Dusty on October 3, 2013 at 2:09 PM

You get to know how far the GOP Establishment and their media shills have gone over to the “dark” side… when you see them more worried about a Govt. shutdown than even the Dems.

Ha! Ha! Ha!

Conservatives do NOT give a hoot. The Govt. can remain shut down forever!!!

TheRightMan on October 3, 2013 at 2:09 PM

maximum public-relations effect

This does not apply to Republicans. There is no public-relations effect for Republicans. LSM spin overwhelms whatever effect could be achieved.

hisfrogness on October 3, 2013 at 2:11 PM

Case in Point:

Carly Fiorina Attacks Cruz: ‘No Honor’ in Fight to Defund Obamacare

Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO Northern California Republican who ran as a conservative to get the Republican Senate nomination in 2010, attacked Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Wednesday, saying there was “no honor” in his fight to defund Obamacare.

The GOP Establishment and their media shills are busy attacking conservatives like Ted Cruz even in the midst of the shutdown fight.

They are looking for every way possible to lose the fight without angering the conservative base, who they know will NOT hesitate to throw them out of their comfy offices and positions.

The GOP has Democrat infiltrators as leaders and this fight has exposed them. For that, we can thank Ted Cruz and his valiant warriors.

TheRightMan on October 3, 2013 at 2:15 PM

I’m surprised the WWII veterans weren’t called racists or terrorists, but they might be saving that for the Sunday shows.

lea on October 3, 2013 at 2:17 PM

As I’ve said all along, the problem with this shutdown strategy is that it isn’t a strategy. It’s just a tactic.

The wise and prudent course would have been to plan ahead, have a day-by-day course of action with smaller appropriations scheduled, various Republicans dispatched for media interviews, and also what to do on Day 3, 4, 5, etc. if Obama and Reid don’t budge.

Instead of a strategy, we just jumped off the cliff behind Cruz and Lee, who both now have huge databases of supporters’ contact information from their efforts. No plan at all.

There was a framework for a “Grand Bargain” in 2011 before Obama sabotaged it, but Boehner hadn’t sold it to his caucus yet, and most Democrats had no idea what was in it, so it is doubtful that can be revived in time.


Here’s an idea for the GOP: after passing smaller CRs for each department, announce we have funded all these agencies now, and no furloughed workers will get back pay beyond one week since it is all on Reid and Obama now.

Then send House Republicans home to their districts with mandates for town halls. Have security and ban anyone wearing purple or with any union or other gang clothing. Tell Obama Reid has the paperwork, see ya in a week, Zippy.

Adjoran on October 3, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Again, Leftists like Obama and Reid can’t help themselves when they are given power. They believe themselves to be better than “the people” whom they claim to represent; thus, they viscerally…visibly…dislike being challenged. That arrogance is their biggest weakness…and this shut down is providing the GOP with the perfect opportunity to exploit that arrogance.

Here is a story about the FDA stopping food inspections:

So food inspectors are deemed “non-essential”. But who wants to bet that 80% of FDA and USDA employees are still reporting to work every day?

Couple this with non-sensical parks shut downs…Reid’s “cancer kid” stupidity…and an ever-growing list of maximum propaganda-value “shortages” like the FDA and you know what I see? A perfect opportunity to peel the scales from the eyes of millions of Americans in regards to the real motivations and priorities of big govt Democrats.

Just as they’ve announced hearings into the park closures, the GOP should announce that they’re going to call the heads of agencies like the FDA to answer questions about their decision-making processes when it comes to designating “non-essential” personnel.

Imagine the optics of this exchange:

GOP Rep: Mr. Lackey, would you please explain the primary mission of the USDA?

Director Lackey: To ensure the safety of the US food supply.

GOP Rep: Well, if that’s the case, would you please explain why food inspectors were deemed “non-essential” while office bureaucrats like yourself continued to report to work every day?

Director Lackey: Ummm…uhhh…well, you see…the…uhhhhh…the…what you need understand is…uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

GOP Rep: Thank you for that eloquent response, Mr. Lackey. Since it contained a lot of jargon, I’ll summarize for the American people. The reason why food inspectors were deemed “non-essential” while office bureaucrats continued to report to work every day is because your first priority during the govt shutdown is not to find ways to ensure food safety…your first priority is to try to frighten the American people for the maximum political benefit of your boss, President Obama.

They’d be utterly defenseless against it. And the damage done by the American people seeing one agency head after another stutter, stammer, and lie on that hot seat would be immeasurable.

Let’s hope the GOP understands this.

rvastar on October 3, 2013 at 2:45 PM

man this reads like a Michael Medved radio show sounds.

How about getting in front of the debt ceiling talk by talking about prioritization like they squelched in the Spring of 2011 that culminated in the sequestration deal. Not raising the debt limit will boost the economy more than anything else if the folks know there’s some fiscal leadership.

Let’s drop this Obamacare deal and leave it right where it is until Harry Reid comes up with something.

DanMan on October 3, 2013 at 3:20 PM

. The wise and prudent course would have been to plan ahead, have a day-by-day course of action with smaller appropriations scheduled, various Republicans dispatched for media interviews, and also what to do on Day 3, 4, 5, etc. if Obama and Reid don’t budge.

Adjoran on October 3, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Idiot. The house has been passing mini-single-issue CRs every day, including today. What? You didn’t know about that? No wonder you’re low-info. Try keeping abreast without the lamestream media telling you what’s what.
As for your 2nd half it’s what I was advocating since before the shutdown. Don’t recall you taking a similar line. No all you did was wail and gnashing about conservatives screwing up.

AH_C on October 3, 2013 at 6:05 PM

The RINO filth attacking Ted Cruz and Mike Lee better stand down.If they keep it up there won’t be a GOP left for them to run.Remember the 8 million who didn’t show up for Romney in 2012?Well there will be a lot more of us who won’t show up in 2014 for any RINO!

redware on October 3, 2013 at 6:36 PM