By Dick Morris - 10/01/13 09:43 PM EDT
Democrats are happy because they believe Republicans are destroying themselves by shutting down the government over ObamaCare.
They are right. But so are the Democrats, and so is President Obama.
Republicans are not explaining their effort to delay the individual mandate properly. Most people do not understand that under their proposal, the insurance exchanges will remain open to all comers. Anyone who wants insurance can and will get it. The only change is that the Republicans want to delay the coercion that requires participation in the exchanges for a year.
The Republicans need to emphasize that they are not proposing any alteration in the Democratic goal of coverage for all who want it.
The only reason the Republican approach is not acceptable to the Senate and the president is that they worry that unless people have to sign up, they won’t. They are concerned that their efforts to lower the cost of coverage won’t be enough to entice the uninsured
But the harm is not all one-sided. While former President Clinton gained points for being reasonable and looked strong during the shutdowns of 1995-96, Obama looks disengaged, detached, passive, weak and irrelevant. He looks like a lame duck as he goes golfing while the shutdown hangs in the balance. Clinton was passionately engaged, working the phones, negotiating daily with Republicans. Obama seems almost a spectator, cheering his side on like a fan — not like a coach, much less a player.
Democrats will also find that the mayhem they predict from a shutdown won’t be nearly as bad as the media predicts.
Inside the Beltway, lots of federal employees won’t receive paychecks and the economy will suffer. But the Washington, D.C., metro area is one of the richest in the nation, courtesy of the American taxpayer. It can take it for a few days.
But a longer shutdown will wear the patience of public employees thin. It could cost Obama and the party lots of goodwill, and maybe endanger their chances of winning the Virginia governorship.
For the Republicans, the danger of the shutdown is that it reinforces the negative image that the party acquired in the days of the Clinton impeachment. They come across as implacable, unreasonable, inflexible, hair trigger, irresponsible and a touch immature. Certainly not ready for prime time.
But the big reason the Republicans need to end this fight quickly is that it imperils their ability to make a stand over the debt limit. Obama and the Democrats look good trying to keep the government open and functioning. But they will look bad begging for the ability to borrow more money. Their “buddy, can you spare a dime” affect will not help them nationally.
Obama can paint a dire picture of default, but the Republicans can counter by pointing out that there are more than enough tax revenues to avoid default. They can pass legislation requiring that debt service, military pay and Social Security be prioritized in the expenditure of tax money. While a debt-limit shutdown will stop the government from borrowing $3 billion daily, it will not impair the tax collections of $10 billion daily, more than enough to meet those three obligations and then some.
As in a labor dispute in which a strike hurts both sides, let’s end this nonsense, now.
Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of 16 books including his latest, Screwed and Here Come the Black Helicopters. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to dickmorris.com.