Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It's Official!

It’s official!  The federal government has shut down until further notice.
As the sun rises this morning 800,000 federal government workers will be furloughed. 
Another 1 million will continue working without pay.
Tens of millions of Americans dependent on government services will wonder how they will get through the day.
The finger pointing will begin in earnest.  Who is to blame for this travesty?
For our money there is plenty of blame to go round.
Ted Cruz certainly shoulders some responsibility.  His calculated willingness to put his ideology and personal political aspirations ahead of the good of the country has left us with…what.  The government is closed while Obamacare, the very subject of Cruz’ ranker, opens for business today.
Then there is the Tea Party caucus in the House.  Thirty to forty Republicans sent to Washington by gerrymandered districts have brought the government to its knees.  Through the use of fear mongering and obstructionist tactics they have swept aside the results of two national elections to impose their will.   
Certainly Speaker Boehner shares some responsibility.  Unable to control his own caucus he has allowed the inmates to run the asylum.  As Speaker he had the power to avoid the shutdown.  He could have brought a “clean” continuing resolution to the floor and it would have passed with b-partisan support.  He refused, because to bring such a bill to the floor would have in all likelihood cost him his speakership.  Instead, like Cruz, he put his personal ambitions ahead of the country.  He may well be remembered for his efforts as the most ineffective Speaker in our history.
Finally, there is the president.  For five years he has refused to participate in the deal making and cloakroom bargaining  that for over 230 years have been an integral part of Washington politics.  Instead he made speeches hoping to persuade the people to do what he was loath to do…twist the arms of their local lawmakers.  When push came to shove the lack of any personal relationship with members on the Hill cost him and the country.
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is out with a new book today titled “Tip and The Gipper: When Politics Worked” by Simon & Schuster.  Its release today of all days could not be more appropriate.
Matthews served as a long time top aid for the Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill.  In the book, Matthews gives his firsthand account of how O’Neill and President Ronald Reagan worked together to get things done.
By Matthews account O’ Neill was the consummate Democrat’s Democrat…Reagan, of course, the icon of Republican conservatism.   O’Neill and Reagan hated the other’s politics.  They fought tooth and nail and publically railed against one another.  But behind the scenes they worked together to move the country forward.  They respected the office and understood that they each had a job to do. 
Matthews tells us that for all their public disagreements it was O’Neill’s quiet behind the scenes support that helped Reagan forge his cold war ending bond with Gorbachev.
When Reagan was shot, O’Neill was one of the first to reach the fallen president at the hospital.  The government had downplayed the president’s condition which in fact was quite serious.  Matthews recounts how the Speaker knelt at the side of Reagan’s gurney, held the president’s’ hand, and the two of them together recited the 23rd Psalm.  O’Neill then kissed the president on his forehead and withdrew.
Can you imagine such a relationship in the poisoned atmosphere of today’s Washington?
What we observed last night could have…should have…been avoided.  It is the result of a political atmosphere devoid of respect; an atmosphere in which compromise is viewed as treason.
Until that changes things won’t get any better.


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