As of writing this article, Americans have endured more than a week of government “shutdown,” with no end in sight. Despite House Republicans sending several budget proposals to the Senate, President Barack Obama and his Senate Water Carrier, Harry Reid, continue to dig in their heels; refusing to even consider negotiating an end to the slowdown. The contrasts with the last government “shutdown,” nearly a generation ago, are dramatic.
I was a member of Congress during the winter of 1995/1996, the most recent government prior “shutdown.” That historic budget battle was no less tense or divided than the current one. A key difference between then and now, however, is that both then-Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Democratic President Bill Clinton understood politics was not a zero-sum game -- where one side's loss must always equal the other side's gain. These two savvy politicians knew that while each side needed strong sound bites to appease their party's base, at the end of the day, and for the good of the country, an agreement needed to be reached -- even if neither side achieved 100% of its goals.
Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton.
Rather than take notes from his predecessor and negotiate an end to the government shutdown -- then claim both victory and credit -- Obama and Reid remain resolutely obstinate. Worse, they are deliberately and selectively directing that certain agencies and functions of the federal government shut down completely – not in any effort to conserve resources, but for the sole purpose of inflicting as much and as visible pain on the American people as possible.
Their tactics are despicable and border on tyrannical.
“We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can,” one National Parks Service ranger told the Washington Times; and evidence of this Machiavellian scheming can be found across the nation. Not satisfied with merely closing national parks like Mt. Rushmore, the NPS placed cones blocking scenic overlooks where drivers at least could pull over and take pictures. At Yellowstone National Park, one of the country’s most popular, Park Rangers are using drawn firearms to make their point.
Such surreal scenes are taking place at sites owned by the American people from coast to coast. But the Administration is not content to flex its own muscle to score political points.