House Speaker John Boehner says he wasn’t pulled into demanding concessions from Democrats to keep funding the government – he willingly joined with fellow Republicans…

Boehner had expected that the Obamacare fight would come during the next vote to raise the debt ceiling, “but, you know, working with my members, they decided, let’s do it now,” he said. “And the fact is, this fight was going to come, one way or another. We’re in the fight. We don’t want to shut the government down. We’ve passed bills to pay the troops. We passed bills to make sure the federal employees know that they’re going to be paid throughout this.”

“You’ve never seen a more dedicated group of people who are thoroughly concerned about the future of our country,” he said of House Republicans. “It is time for us to stand and fight.”

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The congressman began with an anecdote from the Civil War. “I would liken this a little bit to Gettysburg, where a Confederate unit went looking for shoes and stumbled into Union cavalry, and all of a sudden found itself embroiled in battle on a battlefield it didn’t intend to be on, and everybody just kept feeding troops into it,” the congressman said. “That’s basically what’s happening now in a political sense. This isn’t exactly the fight I think Republicans wanted to have, certainly that the leadership wanted to have, but it’s the fight that’s here.”…

[T]he lawmaker thought Senate Democrats, and Majority Leader Harry Reid, would make some sort of concession on a lesser aspect of Obamacare. “I do think, though, when Boehner sent over delay and [repeal of the] medical device tax, I think he thought he’d probably get back medical device, and that would have probably been enough right there,” the congressman said. But Reid and the Democrats steadfastly refused to consider any change to Obamacare, surprising Republicans again. “When [Boehner] didn’t get medical device, I think he did something he didn’t want to do, which was send over the member health care [the Vitter amendment barring Congress from receiving special subsidies on the Obamacare exchanges]. And I think he did that largely because he thought [Democrats] were trying to jam him.” When Boehner lowered his demands to include a delay for just the individual mandate — not for all of Obamacare — Republicans thought Democrats would be open to that more modest proposal.

“Instead, it’s no, we’re not going to negotiate, we’re not going to negotiate, we’re not going to negotiate,” the lawmaker said. “Which means effectively you’re going to try to humiliate the Speaker in front of his conference. And how effective a negotiating partner do you think he’ll be then? You’re putting the guy in a position where he’s got nothing to lose, because you’re not giving him anything to win.”

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“Republicans have figured out a strategy, by sending rifle-shot bills to open different parts of the government, that has put Democrats into a box of saying no. By voting no repeatedly it allows Republicans an excellent messaging opportunity of painting Democrats as refusing to negotiate,” says Ron Bonjean, a top GOP strategist.

A number of Republicans who have talked to House leadership in recent days say privately they largely stumbled into the strategy, and that there is no plan for how to end the shutdown…

Kristen Soltis Anderson, a GOP pollster whose company counts Boehner as a client, agreed that the GOP’s messaging challenge is “very tough.”…

“That’s the best case for Republicans, to be saying they’ll compromise and Democrats have not. But what’s the endgame?

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“We are in the midst of a battle,” Cruz said. “Their position is untenable right now.”

Cruz, who spoke without notes for nearly an hour, said Republicans would win the shutdown fight but offered little in the way of concrete solutions.

“How do we win?” he asked. “If you trust the media, if you trust the voices in Washington, if you even trust, god forbid, some of the elected Republicans in Washington, they say we can’t win this fight. The only way to win this fight is the way we won every other fight throughout the history of the republic, which is solutions don’t come from Washington, D.C., they come from the people.”

“Career politicians in both parties have gotten us into this mess,” he said. “But it’s going to be the American people who get us out.”

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Backstage, a source said, Cuccinelli urged Cruz to work with Democrats to end the federal shutdown. But he did not make that point, or even acknowledge Cruz, in short public comments to some 1,100 social conservatives.

Cruz has become the face of GOP intransigence, and the conservative attorney general’s effort to distance himself from congressional Republicans reflects how damaging Cuccinelli realizes a prolonged shutdown may be for his campaign…

After Cuccinelli finished [his remarks], a pastor from Williamsburg named Mark Morrow praised Cruz for being willing to shut down the government and said many now see him as the most powerful man in the capitol.

“It’s about time that someone in Washington abandons the faulty notion that compromise is the best way to win,” he said.

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The government shutdown did not happen by accident. It is the latest manifestation — an extreme one by any measure — of divisions long in the making and now deeply embedded in the country’s politics

[I]t also could be a new normal, as confrontation remains commonplace and true compromise rare. Meanwhile, the ideological, cultural and political differences that led to this moment of extreme governmental dysfunction are almost certain to shape elections and legislative battles in the near term…

Some may rightly blame politicians in Washington for behaving badly, but in reality the clashes in the nation’s capital reflect conflicting attitudes and values held by politically active, rank-and-file Republicans and Democrats across the country. Add to that a faction of conservatives in the House who are determined to disrupt business as usual and the current stalemate in Congress becomes almost unavoidable.

The bonds that once helped produce political consensus have gradually eroded, replaced by competing camps that live in parallel universes, have sharply divergent world views and express more distrust of opponents than they did decades ago. Many activists describe the stakes in apocalyptic terms…

“I don’t really see a way out of it in the very short term,” said Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory University who has written extensively on polarization. “We’re stuck in it. There was a time when it was possible for the parties to work together, because the divide between them was much smaller. Now we’ve gotten to the point where it’s almost impossible.”

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[Bareknuckle] campaigning has its advantages, as none other than Bill Clinton and Barack Obama (and, yes, George W. Bush) can attest. But winning that way makes governing more difficult.

For starters, those on the losing end aren’t inclined to work in harmony with a president (or a political party) who won in this fashion. Such suspicion can be overcome, as Clinton showed on NAFTA, but only when oiled with the dual lubricants of bipartisanship and compromise—and that’s important: NAFTA was the signature domestic policy initiative of Bill Clinton’s first term. The Affordable Care Act was Obama’s.

That’s a big difference, but there’s an even more fundamental consequence of bare-knuckles campaigning: It’s addictive. Obama won the presidency in 2008 with an aspirational appeal. To retain the presidency, however, he and his lieutenants ran a low and mean-spirited campaign that sought to make Mitt Romney seem an unfit human being, while delegitimizing his political party.

This approach has inevitably spilled over into governing. I understand that the president is frustrated about Republicans’ refusals to fund Obamacare. I share his dissatisfaction. But I also believe a president is obliged by custom, law, and the U.S. Constitution to try and make the best of things. Instead, it seems his administration has tried to make matters worse.

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The shutdown isn’t a new story. It’s the same story as the demise of sensible gun control legislation, even after Newtown, which was supposed to change everything. It’s the same story as the stalling of immigration reform. It’s all one cancer, sprouting tumors of various sizes. The mass we’ve been staring at over the past week just happens to be bigger and uglier than the ones we beheld in the buildup.

Our federal government doesn’t work, at least not the Congress, not the way it should if we’re going to preserve and pass on the treasure and blessings that were bequeathed to us, not the way it should if we’re going to strut around ceaselessly congratulating ourselves on how exceptional we are. We’re exceptional all right, in that we can’t summon the will, discipline or character to fix even those problems that most of us would like to see addressed. How many Americans doubt that our infrastructure is inadequate and leaves us at a serious global disadvantage? Few, but for all our hand-wringing, little gets done…

Because the system’s the problem. The system’s the illness. We justly congratulate ourselves on what the framers of our Constitution set up, but that doesn’t mean we’re set forevermore. It definitely doesn’t mean we’re in a healthy place now. And I worry that on top of everything else, we’re growing so accustomed to our sickly lot that we’re losing sight of its direness. For all our recurrent brinkmanship, we haven’t tumbled into any abyss. So as we find ourselves on the next cliff, in the next crisis, we trust that John Boehner will snap into action at the last minute; that Democrats will eventually cave; that this, too, shall pass.

It might, because it’s just a symptom. The disease, though, doesn’t go away.

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He’s looking to the Obama White House to help start the reset: “I would ask them to start saying, ‘I understand that the people on the other side of the table have the best interests of the American people at heart.’ Simply recognize that. Everybody wants to do what’s best for the American public. Those sorts of statements repeated on a regular basis, it’s the start of dialogue. It’s not concession; it’s the beginning of dialogue.”…

But how to do you deal with the hyper-partisan congressional bomb-throwers? “Well it’s like a game of tic-tac-toe with the tantrum throwers,” Voss says. “In tic-tac-toe, if you’re going second, the best you can possibly do is tie—if you play the game. There’s a first-mover advantage. The minute you stop playing that game the first mover advantage goes away. So you don’t play their game at all. That’s the way you respond.”…

But Voss doesn’t believe President Obama is blameless in the current situation. “I see him using a lot of emotional terms as well and that’s never a good sign. The essence of what he’s saying is finger pointing. When you refuse to talk, then you have blinders on…and it happens to be typical thinking of someone who either doesn’t talk at all or completely gives in.” That’s is a decent distillation of Beltway conventional wisdom criticism of President Obama’s negotiating style to date.

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Asked by Stephanopoulos whether that no negotiations means the country will default on its debt, Boehner responded: “That’s the path we’re on. Listen, the president canceled his trip to Asia. I assumed, well, maybe he wants to have a conversation. I decided to stay here in Washington this weekend. He knows what my phone number is. All he has to do is call.”

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Via the Corner.

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