Only in the Obama era are the guys who say they will negotiate criticized as blind ideological zealots, while those who repeatedly and acidly refuse to negotiate are hailed as heroes. That is exactly what has been happening as Washington headed into shutdown mode. Consider events just since Sunday's round of television news interviews. On "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace,” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California said, "We will not shut the government down. If we need to negotiate a little longer, we will negotiate."
McCarthy was describing what he expected would happen in the likely event the Senate Democratic majority rejected a continuing resolution approved by the House that funded the government through Dec. 15 while delaying Obamacare for a year and killing the health care reform program’s medical device tax. House GOPers could then pass the same CR again, McCarthy said, but make it effective for only a few days to give negotiators between the Senate and House additional time to work out their differences.
The response from leading Democrats essentially was “Hell, no!” And it was followed by another deluge of vicious attacks on the GOP, much like one last week by a key White House aide comparing House Republicans to terrorists and suicide bombers. “What we’re not for is negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest,” said Obama aide Dan Pfieffer. Republican offers of alternative approaches in discussions about the CR and debt limit were nothing more than “ransom demands,” Pfieffer charged, adding that “it’s not a negotiation if I show up at your house and say, ‘Give me everything inside or I'm going to burn it down.’” There is no public evidence that Obama rejected such inflammatory rhetoric by one of his closest advisers.
No surprise there. After meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama again vowed to reporters that there would be no Obamacare negotiations. He added that he would be happy to talk about a long-term spending plan once the present budget crises are resolved, yet he just couldn’t resist trashing the Republicans yet again: “But the only way to do that is for everybody to sit down in good faith without threatening to harm women and veterans and children with a government shutdown.”
Reporters give Obama a free pass on his repeated refusals to negotiate and his viciously partisan insults, which have accomplished nothing except to further poison the nation’s political dialogue and encourage Republican hard-liners to respond in kind. That fact highlights the two reasons Obama and his Democratic allies do these things without fear: First, they imagine that, as happened in 1995, they win politically with a government shutdown, so why try to avoid one? Second, they know their pals in the traditional media will never call them for politicizing the debate.