Archive for October 6th, 2013

by lizard

Harry Reid is having trouble understanding what’s going on with House Republicans. Why can’t reasonable Republicans do to their base what reasonable Democrats did to theirs after the 2006 elections? I mean, it’s not like Democrats pulled this kind of hostage taking extremism when it came to the Iraq war, right? Charles Davis, in this op-ed, makes a good point about that. Why the hell not, Harry?

When Democrats swept back to power in 2006, and took control of both houses of Congress, they promised to end a bloody and unpopular war in Iraq that bankrupted the country both morally and financially. And then, of course, they didn’t.

In an October 2 letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reminds everyone of that. In the correspondence, Reid notes that while he “hated the Iraq war” – after voting for it – his opposition never manifested itself in anything more tangible than a press release, much less a government shutdown.

“There were many gut-wrenching nights when I struggled over what I needed to do to end the carnage,” Reid writes, claiming to have hated the war he voted for “as much as you hate the Affordable Care Act,” the health care law popularly known as “Obamacare” that mandates the purchase of health insurance while requiring insurers to cover preexisting conditions. That law is at the center of the budget fight that recently led to a partial shutdown of the US government, with national parks closed and federal employees taking mandatory unpaid vacations to catch up on “Breaking Bad”.

“I could have taken the steps that you are taking now to block Government funding in order to gain leverage to end the war,” Reid continues. “I faced a lot of pressure from my own base to take that action. But I did not do that. I felt that it would have been devastating to America. Therefore, the Government was funded.”

Sure, stopping a war that was started on false pretenses would have really screwed up America. Devastating, to use Harry’s word. Davis, though, uses pesky numbers to show what actual devastation means, and it means this:

The last US soldier did not leave Iraq until the end of 2011. And even that belated withdrawal, which left behind an army of private military contractors, was required as a result of an agreement signed by President George W. Bush – and, sort of importantly, demanded by Iraqis. Numerous Democratic fundraising letters were no doubt written around opposition to the war, but only an Iraqi refusal to grant US troops legal immunity for their acts on Iraqi soil compelled the US government to finally leave.

In the meantime, between the Democrats’ return to power in 2007 and the 2011 almost-full withdrawal, more than 48,000 Iraqis died violent deaths, according to an extremely conservative estimate from the group Iraq Body Count; by other estimates, perhaps a quarter-million. Two Reuters journalists and a dozen or more Iraqis, including the father of two young children, were killed in a US helicopter attack made infamous after video of the incident was leaked by US Private Chelsea Manning to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks. The two young children were wounded. And more than 1,400 US soldiers died pointless deaths fighting a war everyone basically knew was unwinnable.

So the thinking goes, if Harry Reid can endure some sleepless nights over Iraq without shutting down the government, then how dare Republicans let this anarchist insurgency neuter Boehner.

There’s of course plenty of speculation about why this is happening, and who is to blame. Ochenski’s column in the Missoulian tomorrow makes some interesting observations:

It is considered radical that the Republicans blatantly say they won’t fund the government until certain provisions of Obamacare are delayed by a year. Specifically, they’re talking about the mandate that all citizens buy health insurance or face fines from the federal government.

But it was Obama himself who unilaterally decided to not implement other provisions of the law and now provides a classic, if ironic, case of the pot calling the kettle black. For some reason, the president believed he could simply ignore the law’s requirement that small businesses provide health insurance for their employees and delay that section of the law for a year. There is, however, no provision in the law whatsoever to allow the president to pick and choose what would or wouldn’t be implemented.

And how strange is it that this is the issue over which Obama and the Democrats decided to make their great stand? Although its real name is the Affordable Care Act, Montanans know well, since our own Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., was the chief architect of the measure, that Obamacare should more accurately be called the “Insurance Industry Enrichment Act.”

It won’t take much straining of the memory to recall that only a few weeks ago, Democrats did not have the courage to say no to war in Syria – despite overwhelming public opinion against new military aggression there. Now that would have been a stand worth taking and actually been in line with their constituents’ wishes. But no, despite significant public objection to Obamacare – and its Rube Goldberg complexity which may not work at all – this is what the Democrats decided to fight over.

Taking this a cynical step further, it’s tempting to see this whole thing as scripted, both sides playing predetermined roles. I’m leaning toward the jeanie-out-of-the-bottle theory, considering finance executives have felt the need to prominently say, don’t mess with default:

“There’s precedent for a government shutdown. There’s no precedent for default,” Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein told reporters after he and 14 other financial industry executives met with President Obama at the White House on Wednesday.

“We’re the most important economy in the world. We’re the reserve currency of the world,” Blankfein said. “Payments have to go out to people. If money doesn’t flow in, money doesn’t flow out.”

How many trillions have the zombie banks sucked down already? Yeah, keep it coming, Fed. It’s October, and the vampires are hungry.

A lot of what we are seeing right now is a charade, but it will have real impacts on real people, and for those who are the collateral damage, it doesn’t matter if this is a carefully crafted deception or a jeanie let free to destroy the awful bondage of government.

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