We're Not in 1995 Any More
The fear in the back of every Republican mind is that the American people will blame John Boehner and Republicans for shutting down the government. Just like they blamed Newt Gingrich in 1995 when President Clinton shut down the government in a budget battle with Newt and the first Republican Congress in 40 years.
Could the Republicans get blamed again? Of course they could. But I don't think they will.
For sure, the president and the Democrats and their bribed apologists in the mainstream media will give it one more college try. But don't forget Marx's memorable line. He was comparing Napoleon III to the first Napoleon.
Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
In the current debt crisis it might end up the other way around. The farce of 1995 could very well be the tragedy of 2011. In any case, I think that the words of Lloyd Bentsen apply to Barack Obama: "Mr. President; you're no Bill Clinton." There was something of the brilliance of Napoleon I in the political footwork of Bill Clinton, and we will never see his like again, certainly not in a president who's careful to keep to the script on the TelePrompTer.
The likeliest outcome of the debt-ceiling debate, I suspect, will be "a pox on both their houses." That would be a win for Republicans. Maybe Speaker Boehner can persuade the American people that he tried, he really tried to put together a package that would cut spending and revive the economy. But the president just couldn't buck his Democratic wire-pullers. So now it would be up to the voters in November 2012 to put America back on the road to prosperity.
There's another difference between now and 1995. President Obama just doesn't look and doesn't act like a leader. Leaders don't whine, and leaders don't point fingers. Leaders crack heads together, they get Congress to agree on a bi-partisan package, and then boldly lead their people into a future of hope and opportunity.
Some people fear the president as an adept of Saul Alinsky and his Rules for Radicals. But don't forget that Alinsky's advice was not for presidents; it was for activist insurgents trying to embarrass the system and The Man. It's one thing to run for president as the Washington outsider; it's another thing to make like the outsider while actually running the government. Mr. President, I've got news for you. You're not the outsider any more. Today you are The Man.
One thing The Man never does is make empty threats, as in:
"Well, when it comes to all the checks, not just Social Security -- veterans, people with disabilities -- about 70 million checks are sent out each month -- if we default then we're going to have to make adjustments. And I'm already consulting with Secretary Geithner in terms of what the consequences would be." Earlier he said in an interview on CBS News: "I cannot guarantee that those [Social Security] checks go out on August 3rd if we haven't resolved this issue. Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it."
There's only one problem with that. Social Security is supposed to have $2.4 trillion in the Social Security trust fund, as Stanford Law Professor Michael McConnell has pointed out. What happened to all that money? And now the president has started making veiled threats about chaos in the financial markets:
I think it's very important that the leadership understands that Wall Street will be opening on Monday, and we better have some answers during the course of the next several days.
Talking down the markets, Mr. President? But suppose the Treasury market opened on Monday without any problem? What empty threat would you come up with then?
No, it isn't 1995, or 2008, or 1960 or 1936 or any year that looks good to a Democrat. To return to Marx and Napoleon, 2011 looks more like 1814. After the debacle of the 1912 retreat from Moscow and the 1813 defeat at the Battle of Leipzig, Napoleon was still the best army commander in Europe, and he could still beat the uncoordinated allies in battle. But it didn't matter any more. The game was up.
Democrats are still good at calling for "balanced packages" and "revenue enhancements" and "shared sacrifice" and blaming millionaires and billionaires. But it just doesn't matter anymore.
The old game is up. We still don't know what the new game will be. The American people will decide that next year in 2012. It won't be another 1996.
Christopher Chantrill is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See his usgovernmentspending.com and also usgovernmentdebt.us. At americanmanifesto.org he is blogging and writing An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism.