The 'Obama Don't Get No Blame' Blues

Obama is playing politics with the shutdown, and Republicans don't seem to know what to do.

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The GOP has got the blues. The "America Thinks the Tea Party Shut Down the Government and Obama Don't Get No Blame" blues.

Most all the polling, post-shutdown, finds a majority of likely voters blame the Republicans in Congress for the shutdown, despite their repeatedly stated willingness to deal, instead of President Barack Obama and the Senate Democrats, who won't negotiate and who continue to hold out for everything they want up to the last crossed "t" and dotted "i."

If that makes no sense, and to many on the GOP side it does not, then consider just who has felt the impact of the shutdown. To a considerable degree, it has been felt most by the government employees who, declared non-essential, were sent home on furlough. According to the rough, back of the envelope calculation, the shutdown has affected only about one-fifth of the government. Social Security checks are still getting mailed and people are still able to enroll in Obamacare, at least when the site is working. Unlike previous administrations that have had to process a shutdown, the Obama White House seems more interested in driving home a political point.

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

This would explain why First lady Michelle Obama's healthy lifestyle website is still up and running while the Department of Justice shuttered – at least temporarily – the missing child "Amber Alert" page. It would also explain why the National Park Service, when it discovered it could not close George Washington's Mt. Vernon because it is privately owned and operated, closed the parking lots and the traffic circle where tour buses would unload. It's also why Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid was allowed to get away with the biggest political faux pas of the decade thus far when he consigned children suffering from cancer to their death.

The GOP has got the blues, all right, because, save for some of the most senior Republican leaders, it doesn't understand what is happening. Obama is presiding over a "phony" shutdown – which became all too clear when the president said he would support legislation that would give back pay to furloughed federal workers – to gain leverage with the House Republicans over Obamacare and the coming fight over the debt ceiling. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell are playing it smart by moving individual bills to reopen things the White House calls them out on, such as the National Institutes for Heath.

The rank and file conservative activists who expected America to join them in their call to reopen the government at the cost of Obamacare didn't have a plan ready in case the government actually did shut down. They expected the shift in the groundswell of public opinion would win the day for them. It hasn't – but it is still early.

The president is going to have to up the ante beyond closing off the roads surrounding Mt. Rushmore if he wants to win, but he can only do that at considerable risk to his own approval numbers. To most people, the current crisis hasn't affected them very much at all and they would probably just as soon keep the government closed until it does.

  • Read Robert Schlesinger: On Shutdown and Debt Ceiling, GOP Behave Like Toddlers
  • Read Eric Schnurer: Obama Should Accept GOP Shutdown Demands, Then Watch the Party Implode
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