The Wall Street Journal's Tortured, Laughable “Obama-Cruz Shutdown”

Let's stipulate that there isn't actually a disagreement between Republicans and Democrats over whether to fund the government beyond 11:59:59 p.m. on September 30. Both sides want government operations to continue, which is why both sides have put forward spending bills to pay for government operations. The sticking point is the Republican insistence that government funding be paired with delays or outright defunding of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), which has been the law for three years now and survived both a Supreme Court challenge and a presidential election.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board, taking measure of this toxic political dynamic, recognizes that congressional Republicans, led (in both houses) by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), are pursuing a strategy that is unlikely to succeed, politically dangerous, and contrary to the will of American voters. And yet, they lay an equal measure of blame for the looming shutdown on President Obama, explaining that it's the president's fault for not negotiating with the GOP.

From the Journal's September 30 editorial, headline “An Obama-Cruz Shutdown”:

We've criticized GOP Senator Ted Cruz for his strategy to make defunding ObamaCare a requirement of funding the rest of government. He and his allies know that Mr. Obama can never agree to that, and even millions of Americans who oppose ObamaCare don't agree with his shutdown ultimatum. It risks political damage for the House and Senate GOP in 2014 even as Mr. Cruz builds his email list for 2016.

Yet it takes two to tangle, and Mr. Obama is as much to blame for the partisan pileup as Mr. Cruz. This is a President who is eager to negotiate with dubiously elected Iranian mullahs but can't abide compromise with duly elected leaders of Congress. He refuses to negotiate at all over an increase in the federal debt limit, claiming this has never happened. Like so much that Mr. Obama says, he knows this is false. His own staff suggested the spending sequester during the 2011 debt debate, and Democratic Congresses have used the debt limit to extract concessions from Republican Presidents.

The congressional Republicans are not asking for “concessions.” Rather, they are attempting to enforce an “ultimatum,” as the Journal rightly observes in the preceding paragraph -- an ultimatum that the editorial board says is ill-considered specifically because it will never be met by the president.

The ultimatum is that Republicans want Obamacare gone -- not fixed, not tweaked, not anything else that could possible considered a “concession.” They've even opposed proposed legislative “fixes” for the bill in favor of sticking to the defund/repeal pipe dream. They want it gone, period. But the Journal is trying to transform this “ultimatum” into a “negotiation” or, laughably, an opportunity for “compromise” that the pig-headed president just won't agree to:

Yet now he'd rather see the government shut down than accept the ObamaCare compromises that House Republicans have put in their latest government funding bill. He refuses to delay the law for a year though his own actions reveal it is not ready for prime time. And he won't even accept repeal of the medical-device tax that 79 Senators, including 33 Democrats, are on record as supporting. The tax is already hurting innovation and sending jobs overseas.

What, exactly, makes the House Republican spending bill a “compromise”? It achieves what we've established is the desired end-goal of both parties -- timely funding of the federal government -- but getting there is contingent upon the president -- and only the president -- acting against his own interests by delaying and stripping down the Affordable Care Act. And the House GOP bill asks for a year-long delay in exchange for just over two months of government funding. What do we think will happen when those two months are up and another opportunity for “compromise” comes around? With this bill, the GOP gives up nothing and gets most of what it wants. That is not a "compromise."

But the Journal is trying to obscure that reality because they're fully aware of how damaging politically a shutdown can be for the Republicans who have made it all but inevitable.