Are The Democrats Still Winning?
posted at 8:46 pm on October 7, 2013 by Duane Patterson
NBC’s Chuck Todd reported today with glee that House Democrats think Nancy Pelosi with the gavel in 2015 isn’t that far-fetched. So have the Republicans lost the debate with the American people as we enter week two of the shutdown? Or is it just wishful thinking?
I have paid a lot of attention to not just the political maneuvering by the administration, but the churlish way the left in Washington has messaged it. The President himself used the gun to the head and/or hostage analogy as recent as Friday. Jay Carney has defended the Administration’s use of the hostage rhetoric, ever after the new tone that was supposed to be exercised in the days after the Arizona shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and others.
But today, something changed, and I’m very curious to know why. President Obama spoke for about 10 minutes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and continued to rail against the Republicans in the House, and saying how amenable he was to negotiate, without negotiating on what the fight in Washington is over. That part remained the same. What was missing was the ‘gun to the head’ stuff and the hostage taking language. Over at the White House Press Briefing, Jay Carney continued to get testy and snarky with longtime staunch conservatives like Jonathan Karl of ABC News, but he also did not employ the same level of discourse that was used, pardon the pun, weapons hot, last week.
Instead, there was a new buzz word to look for – threat. Here’s a sample of what the President said today at FEMA.
What I’ve said is that I cannot do that under the threat that if Republicans don’t get 100 percent of their way, they’re going to either shut down the government or they are going to default on America’s debt so that America for the first time in history does not pay its bills. That is not something I will do. We’re not going to establish that pattern. We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of further harm to our economy and middle-class families. We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of a prolonged shutdown until Republicans get 100 percent of what they want. We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of economic catastrophe that economists and CEOs increasingly warn would result if Congress chose to default on America’s obligations. … It has never before been used in the kind of ways that the Republicans are talking about using it right now. We can’t threat an economic catastrophe in the midst of budget negotiations.
Jay Carney seemed to shift to the same key word…repeatedly.
“…the need for Congress to pass a budget, open the government, pass a bill so that the United States can pay its bills and, therefore, not continue to do or threaten damage to our economy. … And even in the meetings with the president, some of which were productive and thoughtful, Republican lawmakers never came back with a compromise proposal of their own. But he is ready to do that, just not under threat of shutdown, not under threat of default. … It is our view, as I think both those officials stated this morning, that since the whole purpose of this argument is to remove uncertainty — the uncertainty created by the threat of default, the threat of not raising the debt ceiling… In 2011, Republicans in Congress decided really for the first time in our history to threaten default if they didn’t get what they wanted out of negotiations over the budget. And that threat, once people realized it was real, caused significant harm to our economy. Default did not happen, but the threat of it caused harm. It was measurable harm and it included a downgrading of the United States for the first time in our history. … There’s — so we saw what happened when you mess around with this, when you threatened default in 2011, and you saw what happened when Congress does what it has traditionally done, which is raise the debt ceiling without making these kinds of threats. … Our position has been from the beginning that the debt ceiling ought to be raised without drama or delay and that the problem around these votes has always been the uncertainty created by threats… continue to have these suggestions from Republicans that they would threaten default if they don’t get what they want. … We know from the 2011 experience, and you saw the report from the Treasury last week, what even the threat of default can do to our economy… The president is very eager to start that process again, but not under threat of default and not under threat of continued shutdown. … raising of the debt ceiling has been attached to something, but there hasn’t been a threat made by one party or the other to withhold payment or, you know, allow for default if they don’t get what they want. … As I’ve said in the past, how Congress fulfills it, as long as they fulfill it without drama or delay, without brinkmanship, without threatening default is up to them. … not with the government shutdown and not with the threat of a shutdown. Etc.
Old and busted: Gun to the head
New Hotness: Threat
In last Friday’s Wall Street Journal, the now-famous unnamed White House source proclaimed that there’s no reason to move to end the shutdown, because “we’re winning.” What do you want to bet that the same winning White House got some focus polling results over the weekend that said they weren’t actually winning friends and influencing people by likening their political opponents to suicide bombers?
My guess? Someone advising the President decided to morph the analogy. Instead of being the good guys on the outside of the building trying to rescue all of the federal agency hostages being held at gunpoint by the awful Republicans, the President has apparently decided to make himself the victim in the shutdown by papering every other sentence with the threat meme. It’s as if the focus polling has indicated that instead of trying to look like the tough guy, if he can play the victim, he’ll be more sympathetic. It’s as if he’s saying, ‘I’d be happy to negotiate with these people, but they threaten us at every turn, and we Americans, you know how much we don’t like being threatened.’
It’s a subtle shift, but a definite shift in the rhetorical debate that we had better notice, and not let them outflank us. The Democrats, from Obama on down, are solely responsible for the shutdown. They wanted it, they said they were winning because of it. They don’t get the ability to claim victimhood on top of it.