Days into the federal government shutdown of the federal government the Obama Administration’s strategy for breaking the impasse has become abundantly clear: Make life as painful as possible for Americans. It’s called “The Washington Monument Syndrome,” no really it has a name, and it’s a political tactic designed to shut down visible, popular services to increase the pressure to negotiate.
For instance, National Review reports that scenic overlooks which dot the George Washington Parkway outside Washington DC were barricaded closed, even though they are just highway cutouts with no designated staff. The government even tried to shutdown Mt. Vernon, the historic home of George Washington, even though it is privately owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. And most visibly, the Obama Administration saw fit to close the World War II Memorial, an open space with no gates, doors or designated staff. Things got so ridiculous that a visiting group of veterans in their 80s and 90s who travelled all the way from Kansas and Missouri had to defy orders from National Park police officers (who were assigned to “guard” the site) to visit the memorial!
“It’s a cheap way to deal with the situation,” on angry Park Service ranger told the Washington Times. “We’ve been told to make like as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.”
It would all be utterly silly, if it weren’t so despicably devious.
Interestingly, it appears to be Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s show. Reports surfaced a few days ago that President Obama thought about meeting with Republicans to figure out a bipartisan path forward that would avert a shutdown, but that idea was quashed by Reid.
“When the president considered sitting down with the four congressional leaders in the White House ahead of the deadline to avert a government shutdown, Reid privately urged Obama to call off the meeting, according to several people familiar with the situation,” reports Manu Raju and Burgess Everett in Politico. “Reid believed that it would amount to nothing more than a photo-op that would give the false impression that a serious negotiation was occurring, even warning he wouldn’t attend such a session.”
It’s enough to make you wonder who is running the show. Is Obama such a failed leader that he has to listen to Harry Reid?
“It’s a failure of leadership to say, ‘I’m just gonna sit here while the government remains close,’ or, with respect to the debt limit, ‘I’ll sit here and not negotiate and the catastrophic consequences I warned you of will just have to happen,” former Secretary of State James A. Baker told the Wall Street Journal.
Although the White House has shown no degree of leadership, they have fallen lockstep behind Harry Reid’s cynical political calculus. The Obama Administration now sees the government shutdown as a game that can help them politically. With the media as their ally they can play up the damage a government shutdown causes and lay the blame squarely at the feet of Republicans.
As one senior administration official told the Wall Street Journal, “We are winning . . . It doesn’t really matter to us” how long the shutdown lasts “because what matters is the end result.”
It was a stunning admission that revealed that the White House’s refusal to negotiate is pure political jockeying. It’s a strategy that infuriates House Speaker John Boehner.
“This isn’t some damn game,” Boehner said. “All I’m asking for is to sit down, like the American people would expect us, and talk to one another about getting the government open and dealing with the significant problems we face.”
All Republicans want is to sit down and negotiate a way out of this impasse. Multiple offers are on the table and multiple offers are apparently forthcoming. Eventually, Democrats must drop their partisan posturing and negotiate. If not for the good of their party, then for the good of the nation.