Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Democrats reveal their strategy

It's nice when one's opponents let everyone know exactly what their strategy is. The Democrats are so confident that they have the Republicans in a box that they are showing their hand.

First we had Howard Dean telling the National Journal that he is pulling for a government shutdown because he believes that the Republicans will be blamed and so it will serve the Democrats' partisan purposes.
Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, sees an upside to a looming government shutdown – at least politically.

“If I was head of DNC, I would be quietly rooting for it,” said Dean, speaking on a National Journal Insider’s Conference panel Tuesday morning. “I know who’s going to get blamed – we’ve been down this road before.”

The former Vermont governor and presidential candidate was alluding to 1995 and 1996, when two government shutdowns under a Republican Congress helped improve President Clinton’s reelection chances. The scenario could repeat this year as budget negotiations continue to falter, and Dean said he thinks the public will blame Republicans again.

“From a partisan point of view, I think it would be the best thing in the world to have a shutdown,” said Dean. He added that as a statesman, he is not rooting for a shutdown because of its harmful effect on the country.
It's not clear that the Republicans will be the ones blamed. After all, the Democrats refused to pass a budget for 2011 and the Republicans have to clean up that mess and then work on the 2012 budget. The Republicans have proposed cuts to bring spending back to 2008 levels and the Democrats are now getting ready to meet them part way but don't want more substantial cuts.

Chuck Schumer spills the beans on a conference call that the "word of the day" among the Democratic talking points is to call the Republicans "extreme" as much as possible.
Moments before a conference call with reporters was scheduled to get underway on Tuesday morning, Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, apparently unaware that many of the reporters were already on the line, began to instruct his fellow senators on how to talk to reporters about the contentious budget process.

After thanking his colleagues — Barbara Boxer of California, Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — for doing the budget bidding for the Senate Democrats, who are facing off against the House Republicans over how to cut spending for the rest of the fiscal year, Mr. Schumer told them to portray John A. Boehner of Ohio, the speaker of the House, as painted into a box by the Tea Party, and to decry the spending cuts that he wants as extreme. “I always use the word extreme,” Mr. Schumer said. “That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week.”
Even though they realized that reporters had heard this part of the conversation, the Democrats still parroted that assignment. They just couldn't stop themselves and had no other claim to make against the Republicans.
Then the conference call began in earnest, with the Democrats right on message.

“We are urging Mr. Boehner to abandon the extreme right wing,” said Ms. Boxer, urging the House to compromise on the scale of spending cuts and to drop proposed amendments that would deny federal financing for Planned Parenthood and for government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mr. Carper continued with the theme, referring to some House Republicans’ “right-wing extremist friends.” Mr. Cardin decried Mr. Boehner’s giving into “extremes of his party.” Mr. Blumenthal closed by speaking of the “relatively small extreme group of ideologues” who are “an anchor” dragging down the budget negotiation process.
So now we know the outline of this movie. The Democrats will make sure that there is a shutdown because they think the GOP will be blamed. Then they'll all chant that the Republicans are extreme because they're to beholden to the Tea Party.

So we'll be at a standstill and we haven't even got around to raising the debt ceiling or passing a 2012 budget. Great.