Last Modified: Friday, October 18, 2013 6:04 PM
Saying that President Obama won the government shutdown war is about as far from reality as a political writer can get. But that is exactly what Eugene Robinson, the liberal political columnist, said on this page Friday. He deliberately let his personal admiration for the president discredit his commentary.
Robinson said Obama’s “victory this week was as complete and devastating as Sherman’s march through the South.”
Hyperbole is the only word that accurately describes what Robinson said, which also means he exaggerated, overstated, magnified and embellished the situation.
For those who may have forgotten some of their American history, Robinson was talking about Union Gen. William T. Sherman. It was during the Civil War in 1864 that Sherman led some 60,000 soldiers on a 285-mile march from Atlanta to Savannah, Ga. The soldiers stole food and livestock and burned the houses and barns of people who tried to fight back. Sherman said he wanted to “make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hand of war.”
If you don’t think Robinson was way off base, consider how others viewed the outcome where Obama is concerned.
National Journal, a respected political magazine in the nation’s capital, called the president one of the losers in the shutdown. Matthew Cooper said Obama is facing another round of budget negotiations, which will hamper his agenda on issues like immigration reform.
Cooper said, “... What’s more, the president said that he wouldn’t negotiate — and a negotiated cease fire is what we ended up with.”
Obama, like Robinson, overstated his case after the shutdown ended.
The president said, “... But probably nothing has done more damage to America’s credibility to the world. ... It’s encouraged our enemies. It’s emboldened our competitors. And it’s depressed our friends who look to us for steady leadership.”
The Associated Press interviewed experts who had a different take. They said the world still runs on U.S. dollars, investors didn’t panic, the country isn’t any less of an attractive market for foreign companies and the United States is still held in high esteem in countries around the world.
Simon Anholt, a British consultant who conducts global surveys, said, “America is the most-admired country on the planet by a very wide margin.” He added that foreigners “like American culture. They like American products.”
Our politics may be puzzling for outsiders, but for Obama to say the nation has been irreparably damaged is simply untrue. Some say the president is trying to blame others for an economy that he can’t improve.
National Journal said shutdown winners were U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, presidential contender Hillary Clinton, U.S. Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Republican governors. It said Cruz has become a conservative leader. Clinton stayed above the fight, which the magazine called a smart move. Reid and McConnell brokered the compromise that ended the shutdown. And GOP governors enhanced their presidential standing.
The losers, in addition to the president, were U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Vice President Joe Biden, the Republican members of Congress like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who tried to get a longer compromise, and Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The magazine said Boehner couldn’t control his party, Biden was a no-show, the GOP caucus took a backseat to Reid and McConnell and Sebelius is responsible for the disastrous debut of Obamacare.
Looking at the shutdown closer to home, Louisiana voters will get to judge their own congressmen. Their votes on the compromise were split. Voting for it were Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Cedric Richmond, both New Orleans Democrats, and Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, who also represents this corner of the state. Against were Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie, and Reps. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, John Fleming, R-Minden, and Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge.
Boustany told The Times-Picayune that “Americans have had enough of the short-term political squabbling.”
“I refuse to jeopardize the nation’s economy over political disagreements on Capitol Hill,” Boustany said. “Some in Washington deny their responsibility to govern. Members of both parties must come together to work out their differences while achieving goals on important policy areas like tax reform, long-term government spending and energy security.”
Fleming said, “... The battle unified Republicans in repeated efforts to keep government open while shutting down Obamacare. The sequester caps, so hated by Democrats, remain intact. Obamacare’s problematic rollout has been highlighted. And the president’s move to take the nation to the brink of default will not achieve his political goal of taking back the House.”
The views of each side have merit. Boustany will be criticized by the far right for his vote, but he comes across as the statesman in the delegation. The others followed their party line to the end. Smart and sensible people know when to cut their losses. Ending the shutdown was the responsible way to preserve this country’s standing in the world, and that is exactly what it did.
• • •Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted By: Joseph LeFevre On: 10/20/2013
Title: Calling Obama a Winner is a Stretch
President Obama himself said "there were no winners" in his comments on the temporarily postponed debacle. What he did win, I think, was to diminish the credibility of the idea that threatening to shut down the government and destroy the economy is a legitimate political strategy. Maybe there is a start here to returning to the idea of using normal legislative procedures to accomplish one's goals--possibly even a return to the idea that, once elected, one's loyalty should be to the entire population rather than to just one's constituents.
I am a little surprised to find that you downplay the damage that has been done to our international position. While it is true that the dollar is still the international currency, etc., that is only because it is not possible to change such things in a short time. I think that if our government continues to allow national economic uncertainty, the change will begin in earnest. Even before default, we had the Chinese government calling for political sanity in our government. If they, and others, decide our treasury bills are not to be trusted, there is little doubt that our global position will weaken.
If, by chance, you have any friends who were traveling internationally during the past few weeks, ask them what comments they heard from citizens of other countries. Of course it is only anecdotal, but what my friends have found to be expressed is not at all positive! I think what is happening is that people still do admire our life style and culture, but confidence in our ability to be true leaders of the world politically and economically is rapidly eroding.