The ‘Chicago Way’ of Governance

Republicans tried to put Obamacare in the hospital, so Obama is trying to put the GOP in the morgue.

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With a kind of lightning efficiency not seen since it was called upon to investigate the mysterious death of a senior Clinton White House aide, the National Park Service moved ruthlessly to secure national parks and public monuments in order to protect the federal shutdown. Under cover of darkness they not only barricaded the World War II Memorial on the National Mall but also closed off the memorials to Presidents Lincoln and Jefferson.

In order to keep the American people from enjoying the splendor and majesty of these and other historic sites, federal officials may have to entertain the idea of filling in the Grand Canyon, clear cutting the forest in Yosemite National Park, plugging up the "Old faithful" geyser, refloating the battleship Arizona at Pearl Harbor and moving it to where it cannot be seen, and pulling a giant tarp over Mt. Rushmore for as long as the shutdown lasts.

According to Moody's Analytics and as reported by CBS News, the shutdown only affects 18 percent of federal budget spending. The remaining 82 percent is exempt but, given the way President Barack Obama and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid are talking about it, a person could not be blamed for thinking that the world is coming to an end.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the government shutdown.]

All over Washington, D.C. public parks used by children and families that are normally unguarded and unstaffed have been fenced off and shuttered. This is not so much about the shutdown as it is the application of "the Chicago way" to the current political crisis. To paraphrase Sean Connery's famous line from the film version of "The Untouchables," the Republicans on Capitol Hill pulled a knife so Obama pulled a gun. The Republicans tried to send Obamacare to the hospital so Obama is trying to send the GOP to the morgue.

 

All this is happening at the same time his signature achievement, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is collapsing under its own weight. The GOP may have committed a tactical error by trying to cut off funding for its various parts as part of the continuing resolution but there is no denying that the program was not ready for primetime on day one of its operation.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Obamacare.]

The negative PR the White House received over the attempt to turn back a group of World War II veterans from visiting the memorial to their heroic efforts undertaken more than half a century ago led the president to call for a meeting with congressional leaders. This is something he could have easily done before the end of the fiscal year, before the shutdown began, but rather than try to negotiate a compromise, Obama dug in his heels. Meanwhile, as is typical of the behavior of his administration, future veterans seeking to visit the memorial as part of the "Honor Flight" program have been given an exemption from the shutdown. They will be allowed to tour the monument under park service supervision whenever they come to town.

In a way this solution is little different than the various waivers and exemptions and delays granted to certain special interests that are part of the liberal coalition who believed they would be adversely affected by the onset of Obamacare. The president and his allies bought their silence.

The country will likely have little patience for this kind of thing over the long haul. The American people wants the nation's problems resolved, which requires negotiation and compromise on both sides. The longer the president holds out for everything he wants the more likely his approval numbers are to drop. In his mind he likely thinks this will help the Democrats win back control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014. The more likely outcome is to produce a Republican-controlled House and Senate for the last two years of his administration, rendering him an even less effective advocate for liberal policies than he already is. Those who expect him to stand firm on the shutdown should remember the tough talk on Syria that preceded his capitulation to the plans of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The GOP is playing it smart by trying to solve the current problem in small bites, in increments to which Obama and Reid are steadfastly saying "no."

Despite the spin the facts will out. The American people will soon understand, if they don't already who is really responsible for the first federal shutdown in 17 years.

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