I have recently been added to the list of "players" for Politico's Arena. I will attempt to republish my comments here. Below is the first.
Politico Arena Topic: Government Shutdown-Who Wins Who Loses?
2011 feels an awful lot like 1995. In 1995, you had a Democratic president who had lost unified party control over Congress and was now on the defensive with a resurgent Republican Party riding the wave of a “revolution” to take the government back. Many observers viewed President Clinton as a one-term, failed president, and the presidency itself as “irrelevant.” Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich, riding high from his victory and new found fame, called Clinton’s bluff on the budget and the federal government shutdown - twice. We all know how things turned out - the Clinton White House turned the shutdown into a public relations victory and knocked Gingrich off his pedestal. Clinton sailed to reelection. Gingrich never recovered politically and resigned after his party lost seats in the 1998 midterm election.
We are now several months into the FY2011 budget calendar as the federal government has been operating because of temporary spending bills since October. The latest continuing resolution (CR) is set to expire March 4 and if Congress and the president cannot agree on a new CR, the U.S. is headed for a replay of the events of 1995. Like Bill Clinton before him, President Obama’s Democratic Party got a shellacking in the 2010 midterms, losing control of the House of Representatives. But from the very start of his presidency, Obama has talked the talk of civility and working together with the other party, often extending the hand of cooperation only to have it slapped away. With the GOP now in control of the House, there is an expectation by the public that both parties work together to solve the nation’s great problems. When Obama released his FY2012 budget last week, it was immediately greeted with jeers by Republican leaders and members saying it was “dead on arrival.”
If the federal government shuts down next week, basic services such as the issuing of military veterans’ benefits checks and passports will cease, national parks and museums will be closed, and hundreds of thousands of federal workers will be forced to stay home. The Obama White House will be able to point to Republicans and their tea party members who openly reject the entire notion of negotiation and compromise, and claim that Republicans are responsible for the mess. And a majority of the public will likely agree.
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