While That Debate Was Happening …


The whole crazy “shut down the government over Planned Parenthood” pyschodrama continued to unfold in the House last night even as the GOP presidential debate was droning on. GOP leaders now have a new plan to let anti-abortion hardliners “vent” but to avoid shutting down the government.

Great! But …

I truly do not understand how this is supposed to work, even on paper. When my wife and I come up with “clever” ways to divert our kids from doing stupid or self-destructive or simply annoying things, we don’t telegraph in advance that we have a plan to divert them and to get them to do what we want instead. Not only do we not telegraph it, but — get a load of this — we don’t tell them that’s what we’re up to.

But over and over it seems like that’s exactly what the House leadership does. I totally get that at a certain level they’re floating trial balloons. If we did this, would that work for you? How would this go over with your people? Could you be satisfied with this? etc.

But these aren’t really legislative negotiations in the traditional sense. It’s negotiating over the theater, the emotional theatrics that the conservative hardliners need to go through to feel like they’ve “taken a stand,” “stood on their principles,” or what have you. But for that to work, for it to be convincing to yourself, you’ve got to really believe you’re one of the last guys standing at the Alamo. If I hand you a coonskin cap, a cap gun, and a Nerf Bowie knife, and tell you to “fight” to the death, you’re going to buy that?

This new plan wouldn’t on its own terms shut down the government or defund Planned Parenthood. That’s pretty much 0-2. So what do conservatives in the House get? They force Obama to veto Planned Parenthood defunding. (The Senate lacks the votes to override the veto).That’s their big win. Well done?

John Boehner’s whole schtick is reluctantly creating these faux heroic set pieces for hardliners to act out their profiles in courage. We’ve written for years about how this is not governing, terrible for the country, etc. But at a very basic level I still don’t understand how they convince themselves that they are the heroes of their own imaginations, given how little they get out of these so-called deals, how often they lose, and how frequently they end up right back here again.

Masthead Masthead
Editor & Publisher:
Managing Editor:
Senior News Editor:
Assistant Editor:
Editor at Large:
Investigations Desk:
Senior Political Correspondent:
Senior Editor:
Front Page Editor:
Editor for Prime & Special Projects:
General Manager & General Counsel:
Executive Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Publishing Associate:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: