Brian Birdnow

The passage of the Ryan-Murray budget deal in Congress last week has been celebrated by the liberal media as a historic event, in and of itself. When one considers that the Congress hasn’t passed a budget in years this is true, at least to some extent. Certain media elements, however, most notably E.J. Dionne, Kathleen Parker and the other Editorial Board members of the Washington Post are chortling merrily at the “Republican civil war” that they presume is now breaking out in the wake of the agreement. The substantial opposition to the Ryan-Murray accord and the resulting harsh words directed toward conservative groups by Party leadership has convinced the liberal media that their long-sought “GOP brawl” (E. J. Dionne’s words) is now moments away from the opening bell. Indeed, an Associated Press piece dated December 18th claims “Republican leaders and several hard right groups are displaying the classic signs of a political divorce, including bitter name-calling and reprisals against one another.” These overhyped lines say more about the author than they say about political reality, circa 2013. The Democrats and their media allies are attempting to create an issue, thereby diverting public attention from the Obamacare disaster, and staving off a 2010-type beating in the upcoming midterm elections.

A little background is in order here. The Ryan-Murray accord, worked out in early December, has pleased few people, but it has passed congressional muster. House Speaker John Boehner, Republican Senate boss Mitch McConnell, and Congressman Ryan himself have become the targets of serious criticism, largely from conservative, GOP-leaning groups for abandoning orthodoxy and principle. Boehner, McConnell and Bob Corker, the Tennessee GOP Senator have returned fire, questioning the motives of the critics. This public display of mutual ill temper has had a ripple effect as conservative commentators and organizational leaders are publicly wondering about the Republican Party, liberal commentators and organizational leaders are ecstatic, and most others are waiting for another shoe to drop.

While we wade into the deeper water of this issue and attempt to chart things for the future, we need to keep some historical perspective on things. This budget accord is somewhat reminiscent of the widely derided 1990 budget deal that helped to torpedo the George HW Bush presidency. Time will tell whether either Party is scorched by this arrangement, or whether liberal groups, who are also displeased, turn their bile on President Obama.

Brian Birdnow

Brian E. Birdnow is a historian and teaches at a university in the St. Louis area.