The New York Times led Sunday morning with a feature on how the government shutdown over Obamacare was “waged by a galaxy of conservative groups with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known.” It recycles some typical left-wing memes–the Koch Brothers make several appearances–but leaves out Democrats’ role in the shutdown, including an effort years in the making.
One “tell” is when the Times‘ Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Mike McIntire describe shared talking points that have even–gasp!–been used by House Speaker John Bohner, including the line: “Obamacare is a train wreck.” They fail to note where the line comes from: Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), a key figure in the debate. That failure is likely deliberate, given how often Obamacare opponents mention that quote’s origins.
Indeed, it is only well over halfway into the article before Stolberg and McIntire reveal that “conservatives face well-organized foes”–and well-funded ones, including Enroll America and $1 billion in funding from the health insurance industry. Stolberg and McIntire leave out the rest of the galaxy of left-wing groups that have pushed the law and its implementation, including President Barack Obama’s Organizing for Action.
Moreover, it is clear that Democrats–including President Obama–have pushed for a shutdown for years, ever since the Tea Party-backed Republican majority took power in the House. Sen. Chuck Schumer, for example, barely waited a month into the 111th congress before he began accusing Republicans of wanting a government shutdown: “It’s wrong, it would hurt innocent people,” he told CNN on Feb. 20, 2011.
Schumer repeated the (false) accusation for months, on so many different occasions, and with such evident glee that the claim became a running joke in the GOP, earning Schumer the nickname “Senator Shutdown” from National Review Online. (The Senate, where Schumer serves, has not passed a budget in more than four years despite the fact that it is required to do so by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.)
The Democrats have been convinced by their political consultants and the media that any shutdown would be a repeat of the 1995-6 battles, where a steadfast President Bill Clinton went on to be re-elected despite losing the midterm elections of 1994 and in spite of the assertiveness of a Republican Congress. Republicans, too, were convinced by that example–which is why they have avoided shutdowns on previous occasions.
The Times fails to describe any of that strategy–just as it fails, in this article, to describe the way Democrats’ strategy has dictated the particular vindictiveness of this shutdown, in which the administration has directed the National Park Service to close even open-air memorials to maximize pain to the public. (Sunday’s paper also covered the administration’s recall of civilian defense workers, who had been sent home needlessly.)
The conservative strategy highlighted by Stolberg and McIntire would have failed if President Obama had not been eager for precisely this kind of confrontation, and had he not already alienated Republican leaders to the point where they were finally willing to take a stand despite intense media pressure. The good news in the article, for conservatives, is that the left and the mainstream media finally have something to fear.