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How is Obama escaping blame for the government shutdown?

1 October 2013

1:06 PM

1 October 2013

1:06 PM

Barack Obama may not be a great president, but he is a wizard at the blame game. He has fought ‘fiscal brinkmanship’ battles throughout his presidency, and he tends to come out on top. America’s federal government is today closing down, and most pundits refuse to say it’s in any way the president’s fault. Instead, they accuse his opponents of wrecking the political system.

If you read most newspapers, or watch the BBC, you would think that wicked Republicans — ‘in hock’ to their extremist tea party division —  are shutting down the federal government out of little more than a fit of pique. The Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator Patty Murray all said the Grand Old Party had a ‘gun to our head’.

But look closer and the picture is not so black and white. Republicans oppose Obamacare for ideological reasons, yes, but also because health is just about the one domestic issue on which they have the support of most Americans. The Affordable Health Care Act is unpopular, so it’s hardly undemocratic to push for its repeal, even if pundits scoff at the crazy number of times House Republicans have tried (41 and counting).

Twice last week, in fact, Republicans voted to fund the federal government. Where they baulked is over the Obamacare clauses of the federal budget. This may not be a sensible (even sane) strategy. But the Democrats are also refusing to budge, and very few journalists (especially on this side of the pond) have accused them of intransigence. As Pat Buchanan puts it:

‘A majority of Americans oppose a government shutdown. And a majority oppose Obamacare. Who, then, is preventing the government from being funded? Harry Reid and Barack Obama. Neither will accept any continuing resolution that does not contain Obamacare. Both will shut down this city rather than accept any such [compromise].’

The truth about ‘Washington dysfunction’ and today’s crisis is complex. It’s far easier to pretend a bunch of right-wing nutters are destroying America.

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