Ordinarily, in a presidency lasting four, or even eight, long years, the strengths and weaknesses of an administration become evident through trends and statistics. Relatively few are the single defining moments, like Ronald Reagan at the Berlin Wall, or George W. Bush at Ground Zero, when a lasting truth of a particular presidency is instantly framed for the world to see.
Historians will look back at the October Shutdown of 2013, however, and see an opportunity for worthwhile study, as so many aspects of this era have been crystallized in these unusual days of budget stalemate in Washington, D.C.
While it will surely be a treasure trove far beyond these few examples, here for your consideration are four lessons that have been clearly demonstrated for all to see, in this early October, 2013:
The “We Told You So” Moment
We are taught from childhood to be humble in victory. When proven right, stay quiet and unassuming. People will remember your predictions without your trumpeting them.
But in politics, that’s not always true. All too often, we have made predictions and been proven undeniably correct, but the public forgets our warnings. They forget that we were indeed the ones who knew what we were talking about, long ago, so they don’t listen to our future predictions as they ought, and make the same mistakes, again and again.
We said that building massive public housing would lock the poor into poverty, making it harder to escape the condition… that legalizing abortion would make it feel acceptable to millions as a birth control alternative, increasing the nihilism and disrespect for human life in other ways as well… that affirmative action programs would harm the deserving and set up even the talented for failure… that higher taxes would produce less revenue by discouraging economic activity. The Right has predicted such things, and been proven right, decade after decade.
By the same token, the Right has issued predictions – sometimes quite colorful – about nationalized healthcare. We have predicted that such a program would have the high price of intercontinental ballistic missiles with the service level of the DMV, the accuracy of the IRS, and the bedside manner of the FBI.
Well, Obamacare opened on the day the rest of the government closed, October 1, 2013. As blogger Eric Kohn put it, “the White House has elected to shut down most government websites. Except, of course, for the sites to enroll in ObamaCare. Those sites decided to shut themselves down.”
Sure enough, within hours, the Right was found to have, if this is possible, underestimated the unprecedented level of failure to come from the Obama administration’s signature program. After three years of preparation, three years of development and single-minded focus, the program opened on October 1 to a nationwide cacophony of angry curses and frustration, as the premiums turned out to be cripplingly high in price, often for ridiculously poor levels of service… that is, when the computers worked at all. Some states saw tens of thousands enter the website, with zero successful signups as a result. Whatever this thing is, it’s not what its target audience wanted.
As predicted, on the rare occasions when the website works, people are finding that the Obamacare premiums are far more expensive, for far less coverage, than they would have been able to get in the private insurance market… or than they used to have from their employers when they had the full time jobs that Obamacare destroyed.
And the very people Obamacare was allegedly designed to save are the ones for whom it is the most unaffordable.
It’s difficult for a politician to say, outright, “I told you so.” They fear looking even more arrogant than they already are. But it has to be said, because swift action is needed: The Right was correct. The tragically oxymoronic “Affordable Care Act” needs to be overturned and replaced, as quickly as humanly possible.
This Administration IS Tyrannical.
The Right has long referred to the present administration as tyrannical – to the president as a dictator, to his czars and attorney general as thugs, to his advisors as a bunch of bullies.
This has unfortunately led much of the political debate of the past few years away from the facts, and into a secondary debate about whether the name-calling is fair or not. The actions of the administration during this October shutdown have removed all doubt from this debate as well.
Instead of simply furloughing bureaucrats in the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Department of Energy, and similar unconstitutional branches – bureaucracies that we could easily do without for a few weeks or millennia, the administration chose to intentionally make the shutdown as painful as possible for the entire nation. No, not out of some extra-literal interpretation of the law… but rather, out of a stated policy of making the shutdown hurt, so the Democrats would have a political point to make against the Republicans.
The administration knows that the American people are aware that the federal government is too bloated, and might not be horrified by a couple hundred thousand people being off work for a few days. So they looked for switches to throw that might provoke public anger, expecting to be able to channel that anger against the Republicans.
The administration shut down the Smithsonian Museum complex, and the National Zoo, but that didn’t horrify the public; it made sense. And in 17 other shutdowns in forty years, we’ve seen it before, so we take it in stride.
So, the administration started grasping at straws, doing things that don’t make any sense at all. Using the shutdown as their justification, they barricaded open-air memorials, public parks, scenic overlooks, even the ocean. By Friday of shutdown week, it was beginning to be difficult to tell the jokes from the serious reports, as the areas genuinely closed down became often humorously outrageous.
Try as they might to blame it on the Republicans, the majority of the public understands who’s closing these things down and why. The public knows that it takes more park rangers to put up barricades along an unmanned scenic overlook on the George Washington Parkway than it takes to drive up and mow its lawn every other week. They know it takes staff to build temporary barriers and post guards at the normally unmanned World War II Memorial so that disabled vets from the Honor Flight program can be denied their chance to see the nation’s public exhibit thanking them for their service. And it’s disgusting the public… as well it should.
This is not the behavior of a politician who serves at the pleasure of the electorate; this is the petulant behavior of a tyrant who wants to punish the voters for leaving a majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives, in his desperate hope that they won’t dare do so again next year.
This Administration Disrespects Government Employees Too.
A common theme in conservative politics has long been the idea that, since the Left so dislikes the private sector, and always seeks to grow the public sector at the expense of the rest of us, they must then really like government employees.
The Left, for example, has long supported giving collective bargaining rights to public employees, even those for whom the right to strike is insanity, such as police, firemen, and the military. The government employee unions are strongly represented in the current administration for that exact purpose; one of the reasons the Left loves obamacare so much, despite its failings, is that it unionizes so much of the healthcare sector and adds so much to the payroll of government.
But it’s becoming evident that they don’t like or respect these functionaries any more than they respect the rest of us. The Left just views public employees as their slaves, expected to do as they’re told, and vote as they’re told, in exchange for this taxpayer-provided job.
So, during the shutdown, the government is making federal employees do the exact opposite of what they signed up for:
Park rangers work in the national parks because they love sharing the national beauty of America with others, not because they want an easy government job. In this shutdown, the administration is making these park rangers close off open-air exhibits, making them deny their fellow Americans the ability to join in their appreciation of these national treasures. And they aren’t happy about doing it.
The workers in the Department of Commerce and similar trade-supporting agencies are proud to help American business gain access to foreign markets. These good folks study the import regulations of our trading partners, and build detailed 24-hour-access websites that enable American exporters to win business abroad. They’ve built sites such as USITC.gov, posting tariff schedules and other handy information to facilitate international commerce even on national holidays or weekends when the staff is out. But the administration made them shut down many of these websites, for the specific purpose of making the shutdown painful for the business community. There was no financial need to shut down these websites; it wastes the hard work of the government employees who were so proud of building handy, user-friendly resources for their fellow Americans in the private sector to use precisely at times like these. But the administration doesn’t respect that motivation in a civil servant who, in the administration’s opinion, ought to feel allegiance to the Democratic Party, not to his country.
Federal employees, especially the ones who work in and around Washington D.C., are patriots; they love their country so much they want to be a part of this government. For all we may say on the Right about how there are too many taxpayer-funded jobs, that doesn’t change the fact that these federal employees – as individuals – do have the best of intentions. But this administration thinks so little of these good people that they accuse them of being one paycheck away from turning traitor. In congressional testimony, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper declared Wednesday that federal employees would be ripe for the picking if any foreign spies offered to bribe them for national secrets. If dueling was still popular, that man would have had any number of challenges from honorable federal employees in a matter of minutes. A vile accusation by a dishonorable man – to insinuate that our civil servants would turn Benedict Arnold because of a government shutdown – showing the true level of disrespect that this administration has for these good people.
None of this should be terribly surprising. We’ve seen the Left destroy union members’ lives, time and time again, as they’ve driven industries offshore, taxed and penalized workers out of the middle class, and otherwise harmed the prospects for America’s workers. The Left’s hostility toward Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s needed education funding reforms are the perfect case in point; Walker worked to save the financial future of their government employees, and his Democrat opponents fought tooth and nail to keep their programs in bankruptcy. Only after the Walker reforms were proven to work did folks realize that the Republicans were, in fact, the ones looking out for them, not their shop stewards and Democrat pols after all.
But this week’s shenanigans have been unusually blatant and brazen. The administration’s disrespect for federal employees – from using them as hired thugs against tourists, to accusing them of being potential traitors – is a new low, even for the modern Democrat Party.
Today’s Democrats Don’t Follow Rules. Any Rules.
It has been demonstrated, time and time again, that this administration breaks the rules. They violate the Constitution on a daily basis, by refusing to negotiate on a real budget, by issuing executive orders and promulgating laws and regulations that are simply not in the government’s power to do. Unfortunately, the lackadaisical attitude toward the Constitution among many Americans has made such events mere “issues of disagreement” in the modern era, even though a century ago there would be absolute unanimity on such matters.
As recently as the early 1900s, the government KNEW that if they wanted to create a new national tax, or expand the vote, or ban a formerly legal product, they would need a Constitutional amendment to do it. But no longer. This administration creates new taxes in obamacare, expands the vote to felons and illegal aliens through executive orders and Attorney General enforcement practices, and effectively bans any expansion of the coal industry, without even acknowledging that amendments would be needed to do such things legally. And they have gotten away with it because the issues can be spun as if they were complicated matters for debate, rather than the cut-and-dried outrages they really are.
Some of the actions of the shutdown, however, are so blatant that even the least-educated in Constitutional law, can easily tell that they are illegal.
In their zeal to block off tourist attractions, this administration has ordered federal employees to block access even to private sites such as George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon and other historical locations operated by private charities!
In their effort to cause economic hardship, the administration has banned private fishing in the ocean, turning the famous lesson of King Canute on its head.
Most outrageous of all, the administration has threatened priests and ministers with arrest if they dare to celebrate church services and weddings on military bases, a tyrannical violation of the First Amendment rights of not only the clergy but the servicemen as well.
This administration has gone off the rails. The president has long been a tyrant – that’s not news – but the way he and his staff have overstepped their authority during this shutdown has eliminated all doubt from a fast-growing segment of the American people – even the independents who twice made the fatal error of voting for him.
Politically, the jury will be out for a long time on whether the Congressional Republicans managed the shutdown well or not, from a PR perspective. Seeing the horrific damage Obamacare was doing, they just felt duty-bound to do everything they could to fight it – whatever the political consequences – an honorable and logical position.
But there is simply no question on what this shutdown has done in terms of education. There, the jury is in. This shutdown has enabled the American people to see a side of the Obama administration that has often been kept well hidden in the past, obscured by snappy comebacks, well-written spin, and an obsequiously incompetent press.
We have seen this president and his team for what they really are: corrupt Chicago pols writ large… a vindictive, tyrannical, bullying band of thugs who somehow managed to gain control of the reins of the greatest nation on earth.
And whether we can keep that title much longer is entirely dependent on how well we all learn these lessons, and how well we can rein them in for the remainder of the time they retain access to the considerable power that they so love to wield over their fellow man.
Copyright 2013 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based international trade compliance trainer. A former chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, he has now been a recovering politician for over sixteen years.
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