On his radio show today Rush Limbaugh played a clip of History professor Doug Brinkley warning the Republican Party away from attempting a repeat of 1995's government shutdown. Limbaugh dismissed Brinkley's warning, saying that "nobody anywhere is talking about shutting down the government" and that "they" are just trying to "frighten voters":
LIMBAUGH: You are going to continually hear that the objective is to shut down the government. It is not. There's not Newt Gingrich redux going on here. Gridlock is not shutting down the government. Nobody in the Tea Party, nobody anywhere, is talking about shutting down the government as happened in 1995. They're trying to mischaracterize and impugn people again, and frighten voters into thinking that's what you're all about. You know it isn't, we know it isn't, and they know it isn't.
It's funny that Limbaugh brings up Gingrich, because the former House speaker -- who is still a major player in Republican politics and conservative media -- has endorsed the idea of a government shutdown if Obama refuses to sign legislation defunding healthcare reform. The Hill reported in April:
"You have to consistently communicate key messages because the presidency is such a powerful instrument," he said. "I think this city has fundamentally misunderstood what happened with the shutdown. To most of the country, it became a signal that we were serious...If we win we have every right to say 'the American people have spoken."
Asked if he would encourage the Republicans to push for a shutdown, Gingrich said that the GOP needs to be ready to stand on principle.
RedState blogger/CNN contributor Erick Erickson and Fox News correspondent Dick Morris have also raised the possibility of a government shutdown. Erickson in particular seemed positively elated at the prospect, tweeting: "I'm almost giddy thinking about a government shutdown this year. I cannot wait!" Morris said in an August 27 speech at an Americans for Prosperity Foundation conference that "there's going to be a government shutdown just like in '95 and '96, but we're going to win it this time, and I'll be fighting on your side."
There's more. On September 10, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) told the crowd at the Faith & Freedom Conference that he was all for another shutdown. At least two congressional candidates are open to the idea as well: Teresa Collett, who is running for the House in Minnesota, told Think Progress that the Republican caucus "might have to do that" in order to gut health care reform. Joe Miller, the Tea Party candidate in the Alaskan Senate race, also said he was open to shutting down the government if that's "what it takes."
Add to the list a handful of prominent Republicans who have shied away of endorsing a shutdown, but also explicitly refused to rule it out: for example, House minority leader John Boehner, who told CNN, "I'm not going to get into ... what ifs." McConnell had a similar response. And RNC chair Michael Steele told CNN that the GOP was "not going to compromise on raising the debt ceiling," even though, as Think Progress said, such a position "will almost certainly lead to a government shutdown."
So at least nine Republicans in media and government are either for shutting down the government or at least won't rule out the idea. But wait! I left one person off the list: Rush Limbaugh himself, who, on the December 15, 2009, edition of his radio program, suggested that the GOP should do "whatever works" in order to stop health care reform. He said there was "nothing off the table; amendments, spending bills, gridlock, government shut down if we have to. It's that serious."