Coming soon: The government shutdown sequel?

Democrats and their supporters are warning that should the GOP take control of Congress, watch for Government Shutdown II. The warning also includes a helpful hint to Republicans that a shutdown will damage their party and its leaders, as the last one, in November 1995, damaged then-Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.).

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews has been on a tear on this subject. On “Hardball” last week, Matthews warned, “[M]ake no mistake, if this new band of Republicans grabs control of Congress, they’ll force another government shutdown.” Later in the show he played a clip of Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, drawling, “If the government shuts down, we want you with us.”

Matthews speculated that the Republicans are “not worried about the libraries being closed, or their museums.”

But Matthews seems to have forgotten that while the one-week shutdown 15 years ago definitely contributed to Gingrich’s downfall, it also contributed to eight years of George W. Bush, and all the consequences thereof.

It was during the shutdown, with only essential federal workers manning the White House — interns didn’t count because they aren’t paid — that intern Monica Lewinsky, then 21, worked her magic on Bill Clinton, infamously flashing her thong and performing oral sex while Clinton chatted on the telephone with a member of the House or Senate. If you believe, as I do, that Bill Clinton essentially squandered the last three years of his presidency (the Lewinsky/Clinton scandal broke in The Washington Post on Jan. 21, 1998); that Al and Tipper Gore’s refusal to allow the impeached, humiliated president to campaign for Gore in 2000 opened the door for W’s victory, then things didn’t work out so well for the Democrats either.

That’s a matter of history; and that it never came up in the course of “Hardball” surprised me, given that the highest praise Matthews bestows on his guests is that they have a sure grasp of history.

Yes, Clinton might have had intern trouble anyway, but who knows? And if Clinton was bound to get entangled in a sexual liaison, it might have been with someone more discreet and mature than Lewinsky, and it might have occurred somewhere other than the private study off the Oval Office — or as Republicans so often put it at the time, in “the People’s House.”