With thick smoke clouds billowing out of the Capitol it’s hard to see who’s winning the latest war in Washington – plus, it isn’t a simple us versus them war: It’s a three tribe melee (with two camps of Republicans fighting Obama and each other at the same time).
At first, a couple of weeks ago, it looked like Chief Boehner of the largest Republican tribe was about to work out a deal with Obama to fund Obamacare and avoid a government shutdown – but then the second Republican camp (a small but fearless tribe of conservatives) threw a monkey wrench into the works.
The Republican Chief then reversed course which, of course, didn’t sit well with the President – who, it turns out, is a match for both the conservatives in fearlessness and Boehner in cunning.
Suddenly, the Republican Chief found himself under attack from both sides. He’d send a trial balloon floating over toward the Obama camp which the President would shoot down, saying, I’m not budging; then the Chief would try his hand in his own Republican Caucus, explaining, Look, Obama’s not going to give an inch. He knows if the government shuts down we’ll be blamed.
That homily fell on deaf ears, too – showing Boehner little more empathy than Obama had, the conservatives more or less said nobody had ever won a fight by running away.
Now, all that said, right in the middle of this melee, there is one thing all the tribes agree on: A government shutdown is not a good idea. After all, it means Senators and Congressmen won’t get paid. And all three camps also agree paying soldiers and sailors makes sense – so, while a sergeant’s fighting in Afghanistan, back home his wife isn’t wondering how she’s going to make ends meet at the end of the month.
It’s not hard to understand a conservative saying, As a matter of conscience I can’t vote to fund Obamacare.
Or to understand Obama saying, And as a matter of conscience I can’t let you not fund Obamacare.
But it’s hard to see either saying, I can’t agree to pay soldiers and policemen and to care for the infirmed.
So why isn’t someone – anyone – in Washington saying, Let’s fund the things we agree on (which amount to trillions of dollars) then fight it out later over the rest.
It’s one of those odd mysteries.