10/06/2013 09:54 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

BOTH SIDES NOW : GOP Takes Obamacare Hostage, Shoots Itself

Matalin and Shrum debate who's responsible for this Gordian Knot tying up our government & economy -- and who will cut through it. Does the Defund Caucus risk a "Governmental Lehman Bros?" Would Bush have told a clique of Hill Kucinichs, "yeah, I'll reverse my tax cuts as condition of keeping DOD open"? Then, whose filibuster might lead to higher office -- Paul, Cruz, Davis?


We listen to President Obama's rhythmic phrase about "one faction in one party in one chamber of one branch can't expect ransom or else they'll shut down the whole government." In response, Senator Cruz says that he speaks for America and it hates Obamacare. Responds a bewildered Senator Jon Stewart, "but it's THE LAW!"

Is Boehner being "Cruzified on a Cross of Tea?" (credit to Kevin Drum,Mother Jones.)

On Defunding Obamacare. Mary insists that fellow Republicans don't want a federal shutdown but are nobly advocating a) for delaying the individual mandate now that Obama's delayed the employer mandate and b) for not carving out a special exception for congressional staff.

That's sounds normally why a shutdown of most of government? ("You don't burn down the house to roast the pig" goes the aphorism, especially when the Shutdown doesn't stop the off-line ACA!)Bob cites two factors: Ted Cruz ginned up 80 Tea Party crazies over in House to make demands like Obama stopping Obamacare and Boehner rightly fears that he'll lose his Speakership if he doesn't do what this cadre in his Caucus want. "The problem is that this standoff might glide into the October 17th debt ceiling vote...and so we could end up with a government-created Lehman Brothers... with a recession or depression."

Host: Cruz says "This is a fight we can win." That's true IF you replace the word "we" with "I." He can win by gaining notoriety and affection with the hard-right "low education" base but there's zero chance that the Senate and President will suddenly agree to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on Obamacare. To "win" requires a Republican Senate and Republican president since, as the cliché has it, "Elections have consequences."

Mary is asked - what would Bush have done if a minority of Democrats had told him he had to choose between a shutdown of the Pentagon or agreeing to reverse the Bush43 tax cuts that he ran and won on. She responds by describing Obamacare as a "sea change and paradigmatic shift in the relationship of the individual to government" and that this tactic is about the last one that can stop "the barbarians at the gate." Bob scoffs that she won't answer the Bush question and that the GOP civil war between the Cruz and WSJ/Rove/Chamber wings reminds him of JFK's famous metaphor in his Inaugural that "those who ride the back of the tiger often end up inside."

The two again debate the triggering issue of Obamacare. Mary insists that it'll fail because premiums will rise and jobs will be shed. Bob responds that when the same warnings were voiced about Medicare in 1965, LBJ had federal workers go door-to-door explaining it until there was finally 100% enrollment. And Obama's already said that IF it doesn't work, then people will insist on repeal but Cruz is afraid not that it'll fail but that it'll succeed and be popular.

There's uncertainty how or when this standoff ends. Matalin thinks that the political costs of the '95-96 Gingrich-led shutdown have been exaggerated since few seats were lost in the Congress. But didn't that help reelect President Clinton, Shrum notes, as that year's GOP nominee Bob Dole said just last week?

The two panelists agree that Boehner's in a tight spot since he's previously said that no party would allow American to default on its debts, that he's already gotten "98%" of what he wanted in the last round of fiscal cliff/sequester talks, and that he and Harry Reid agreed two months ago on "a Clean CR". Isn't he boxed in?

Polls now show that while Obamacare itself divides the country, by 77-21% the public is against a shutdown over it. Editorial opinion is almost uniformly against the GOP talking point that it doesn't want a shutdown and so Obama's to blame. The Republican arguments seem absurd on their face: first, if you drive 100 mph into Times Square and kill two pedestrians, you can say you didn't want that to happen but you're still going to jail for vehicular homicide; second, is it remotely plausible that the public will blame the liberal president of the pro-government party for a governmental/economic shutdown rather than the Tea Party/anti-government national party?

Q: How does this end? A: When the gap between the generic congressional D and R grows to double digits, Boehner will allow a floor vote with a face-saving budget. While embarrassing, it sure beats the words "Speaker Pelosi" in 2015 and "Clinton 45" during the redistricting year of 2020.

On Filibustering to Fame. We listen to a brief audio medley from the 13 hour filibuster of Rand Paul against drones killing Americans, the 22 hour speech of Ted Cruz on how expanding health insurance will worsen our health, and the 12 hour filibuster of Texas State Senator Wendy Davis over abortion and women's health.

Yes all were stunts but did they helps the speakers get closer to their goal of high executive office? The two seem to agree that Paul is a serious contender in 2016 for the GOP nomination though Shrum thinks he's too libertarian and anti-internationalist to ever become president. Mary adds that that the pro-military wing of the party is now trending away from expensive entanglements on the theory "either all in or all out." And while Wendy Davis attracted tons or attention and money for her now announced candidacy against AG Greg Abbot for Governor, she's a big underdog in a state that hasn't elected a Democrat state-wide since 1994. Adds Mary: running on abortion in Texas is not a political winner.

Quick Takes: Three consensus alerts: a) Matalin and Shrum agree that it's a political blip that both CNN and NBC have cancelled their planned Hillary documentary and series, both victims of a pincer movement by the RNC and Hillaryland; b) while George Will is called, with Reagan and Buckley, among the top three conservatives of the past half century, it's a loss for "both-sides" viewers that he leaving This Week where he's challenged and going to Fox where he won't be.

And c): we marvel at whatever's in the water cooler at the Daily Newssince they keep coming up with covers and graphics that shape public debate: remember "Ford to NYC: Drop Dead"; a cartoon of Gingrich bawling when denied a seat up front on Air Force One; and now John Boehner as Kevin Spacey sitting on his Lincoln Memorial chair under the headline, "House of Turds."

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

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