Rattle the markets, slow an economy in recovery, interrupt potentially lifesaving research at the National Institutes of Health? Check, check and check.
Derail the hated Obamacare? Ch . . . — oh, no, wait a minute. That was the GOP’s ostensible purpose for this travesty of misgovernment, but the online insurance markets created by that law opened on schedule last week and continue to operate. In fact, the Republicans managed only to distract attention from the computer glitches that would have gobbled up all the news attention if the government weren’t shut.
In a revealing moment Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” host George Stephanopoulos replayed a clip from last year in whichHouse Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) explained the foolishness of the tactic that he is now, a year later, pursuing. “It’s pretty clear that the president was reelected,” Mr. Boehner said then. “Obamacare is the law of the land. If we were to put Obamacare into the CR [continuing resolution] and send it over to the Senate, we were risking shutting down the government. That is not our goal.”
Cowed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and bullied by the most conservative members of his caucus, Mr. Boehner has done exactly what he said made no sense. Now he doesn’t know how to get out of the predicament. A shutdown is bad; a default on the debt, which looms 10 days from now, could be catastrophic. The speaker is demanding that President Obama negotiate, while setting “red lines” for those hypothetical talks (“Very simple. We’re not raising taxes.”). It’s not an impressive strategy.
At some point, Mr. Obama and the Democrats will have to throw the speaker a lifeline. As tempted as they may be to see the Republicans blamed for economic disaster, giving the Democrats a chance to recapture the House in 2014, the potential damage to the nation is too great — and Americans could end up blaming everyone who seems to have a hand in this mess. A temporary extension of the debt ceiling, a reopening of the government and a commitment to engage in a process that leads to budget and tax reform: The ingredients of a deal are there.