It takes two to produce an impasse, right? Not according to the almost unanimous press refrain. The Washington Post editorialized that the government shutdown was endangering national security -- 72 percent of the civilian intelligence agency personnel have been furloughed, according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein. But it doesn't even occur to the Post' editorial board to hold both parties to account for this. " ... Republicans are putting U.S. embassies across the world at risk with their shutdown of the U.S. government. More broadly, they are endangering national security at a time when the United States remains under threat from al-Qaeda and affiliated groups." (My emphasis.)
House Republicans have passed measures to keep funds flowing to the District of Columbia, the National Park Service, and the National Institutes of Health, but Senate Democrats declined to vote on these. Is this a big story? No. Harry Reid was even caught in the kind of gaffe that would be a career-ender for a Republican. CNN's Dana Bash framed the NIH funding question this way: "If you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn't you do it?" Reid replied, "Why would we want to do that?"
It would be unfair to conclude from that slip of the tongue that Harry Reid is indifferent to the welfare of children with cancer. Fair-minded people can agree on that. Can we also agree that if a Republican had said it, it would be featured in a constant loop on TV and elsewhere? Is there any doubt that if the roles were reversed, Democrats would be marching children with cancer before cameras to plead with Republicans to restore funding, and the press would be reporting that Republicans want children to die?
Barack Obama is the first president in living memory who has attempted to spook the financial markets in a transparent attempt to win a partisan advantage. He is also the first in recent memory flatly to decline to negotiate with the other party. When he invited congressional leaders to the White House on Wednesday evening, his spokesman, Jay Carney, was careful to explain, "There was nothing to negotiate."
This is the battle Obama wanted because his cannons are arrayed on the high ground, controlled by his press.