Government Shutdown: Why Obama Shouldn’t Negotiate With Republican Hostage-takers


President Obama must stand firm

[The View From Washington]


The Obama Administration Let Republicans Control Narrative

Since the Republican led House of Representatives shut down the government, polls show a continued shift in public sentiment away from Republicans and in favor of the President.

According to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll  Americans disapproval of the way Congressional Republicans are “handling negotiations over the federal budget” has jumped to 70% with a mere 24% approving of Congressional Republicans.

The disapproval rate of President Obama’s performance on the budget negotiations has narrowed, 51% to 45%. That’s a small improvement from the previous week’s 50% to 41% disapproval ratio.

The issue is not with the poll numbers.  If you are a member of the administration the numbers are trending in the right direction.

Their concern should be with the construct of the narrative by the corporate media. Programs such as Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and This Week are following the narrative articulated by Speaker Boehner and other Republicans: “Why won’t President Obama negotiate?”

Savannah Guthrie from Meet the Press asked Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, “Is the president ready to watch this country go into default rather than negotiate with Republicans?”

Later she tells Representative Fudge (D-OH), “As this goes on and on, the president’s stance is, ‘I won’t negotiate.’ And even if there’s a host of reasons why that is a responsible position, as a bumper sticker, it’s not the greatest, is it?”  Supporters of the administration’s position are allowing themselves to be brought into a debate based upon a false premise. The nature of Guthrie’s questions presumes that the Republican’s position has merit.

It does not.

George Stephanopoulos from This Week opened his round-table discussion by allowing his guest Paul Gigot to say, the President is playing with fire by failing to negotiate; as though the Republicans position is intellectually honest. Gigot went on to recount how many continuing resolutions (CR’s) have been negotiated by previous presidents; as though that history is relevant to the current circumstance.

It is not.

This time Republicans are holding the country hostage to reargue established law; the Affordable Care Act. Even Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has said, “We fought as hard as we could in a fair and honest manner and we lost…”

The hosts of these news programs and others may consider themselves to be unbiased journalists by allowing the Republican spokespeople and pundits to go unchallenged but they are really doing the public a great disservice.  Facts matter. The truth is important and should always be paramount.

The shutdown of the government is being led by a small band of elected officials who are more focused on their narrow political ideology than operating in the best interest of the American people.  According to The New York Times, “Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy.”

The result was the “blueprint to defunding Obamacare.” According to the Times “It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government.

This of course comes on the heels of the infamous January 20, 2009 dinner where according to Robert Draper’s book, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives” Republican leadership “met and plotted to sabotage, undermine and destroy America’s Economy.” The senior GOP members plotted to bring Congress to a standstill regardless how much it would hurt the American Economy by pledging to obstruct and block President Obama on all legislation.

Contrary to how John Boehner, Eric Cantor, et al, try to position the current shutdown we are exactly where they wanted us to be. It is not a noble gesture that the Republicans are championing on behalf of “the American people”.  This is, according to the Times, “the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010 — waged by a galaxy of conservative groups (such as the Koch Brothers) with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known.”

It is also the Republican Party playing to a bigoted ideologically driven element of their party, the White Southern Republican base.  According to The Nation “Many factors play into the shutdown, but a leading cause is the fact that the Republican Party is whiter, more Southern and more conservative than ever before.”  As a result of the 2012 census and restricting, “while the country continues to grow more racially diverse, the average Republican district continues to get even whiter.”

Contrary to Boehner’s mantra, Republicans are not listening to “the American people,” they are playing to the narrow structural base of the Republican party.

For mainstream American journalists to allow Republican representatives to justify their “negotiating” position as though it is valid perpetuates the lie.  For Democrats to participate in television and radio programs where the questions they are being asked are based upon faulty premises and they trying to answer the questions without highlighting their flaws is a formula for disaster.

It is also interesting how journalists, Democratic strategists, and Democratic members of Congress have adopted the Republican created pejorative term “ObamaCare.”  When you allow your enemy to define your position you’ve already lost the argument.

Not once have I heard Representative Fudge (D-OH) or other’s say, “no, it’s not ObamaCare; it’s the Affordable Care Act. (ACA)” Polls have shown many Americans oppose “ObamaCare” but support the ACA, demonstrating how effective Republican marketing has been and how the administration has failed to explain its flagship legislation.  He who defines reality controls others perception of reality.

Even though the polls are showing Americans disapprove of the way congressional Republicans are “handling negotiations over the federal budget” I believe the administration has lost control of the narrative, again. They can’t seem to construct a consistent and cohesive message. The ACA is not a takeover of health-care; it’s a change to health insurance which provides greater access to care for the previously uninsured.

In terms of corporate “mainstream” media, the administration has failed to get program hosts to focus on why Republicans are opposed to expanding healthcare to more Americans and are willing to shut down the government in order to prevent it.  Also, why should the President negotiate issues (ACA) that are unrelated to a clean CR?

By failing to force the narrative to address these issues, as the day’s pass and the country again get’s closer to the fiscal cliff, the winds of public sentiment may shift; forcing the administration to concede defeat when the battle, if properly fought, was already won.


Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the Sirius/XM Satellite radio channel 110 call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon” Go to or email: [email protected]. and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at  © 2013 InfoWave Communications, LLC

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