The brains behind the Obama shutdown strategy

Who talked Barack Obama into shutting down the government and pulling up the curtain on Shutdown Theater?  (For those still clinging to “Republican shutdown” mythology, Matt Vespa at PJ Media reminds us that Republicans in the House voted 11 times to re-open the government, listing the bills by number.  All of these bills were killed by Senate Democrats, while the media tucked its hands in its pockets and looked the other way.)

There are conflicting accounts today of whose idea this strategy was.  The Hill says “Dan Pfeiffer’s fingerprints are all over the White House’s strategy of not negotiating with congressional Republicans over the government shutdown and debt ceiling.”

The senior adviser to President Obama has been plotting the White House???s every move, and is described by some within the administration as the “relentless guardian??? of Obama???s no-negotiations stance.

???He???s been the most ferocious on that principle,??? one senior administration official said. ???He was quite adamant and relentless about this. And on the face of it, it???s not an easy argument to make.???

The Hill notes GOP poll numbers slipping during the shutdown battle, while previously dispirited Democrats rallied around President Obama, leading White House officials to “argue the polls underline the success of their messaging.”  Too bad the gigantic health care boondoggle they dropped on America wasn’t as successful as their messaging.  That might be something that haunts them long after everyone forgets how Obama advisers and the media teamed up to message the heck out of the shutdown.

There are interesting details about the discipline and coordination of the White House message machine, which really is admirable, no matter what one might think of the uses to which it is put.  Of course, it helps that the media politely ignores things like Pfeiffer inadvertently tweeting out a racial epithet, which would have instantly ended the career of any Republican official in his position, even if it was just a typo.

Nevertheless, it was cagey of the White House to bank on the kind of message discipline and lockstep unity Republicans can never, ever manage, even when they hold the Oval Office – let alone when the party is still waging internal power struggles following an electoral loss.  It might be difficult for congressional leadership to maintain party discipline without the presidency, but history has shown that it’s not impossible… provided the bulk of the party is sincerely interested in sticking together behind their cannon and winning a political engagement, rather than tossing members of their own crew overboard, so they have a shot at taking the helm after the white flag has been run up.

But according to Ed Klein, author of “The Amateur,” the true architect of the shutdown strategy was top Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.  From the New York Post:

Klein, who is conducting a research for a new Obama tome scheduled for next spring, called Jarrett the ???architect??? of Obama???s take-no- prisoners approach when it comes to his signature domestic policy initiative.

It was Jarrett who advised Obama that voters would mostly blame Republicans if the federal government ground to a halt, providing a golden opportunity to swing back control of the House to Democrats in the 2014 mid-term elections, according to Klein.

A Democratic House would give Obama an opportunity to pass immigration and other legislation blocked by the current Republican majority.

Golly, that all sounds like exactly the sort of “hostage taking” these Democrats love to accuse Republicans of.  A deliberate strategy to provoke public misery and anger for political gain?  These people look down their noses at their countrymen and see nothing but pawns to be shoved and sacrificed in an endless power game.

According to Klein, Jarrett is the one who “came up with the idea of using the words ‘hostage’ and ‘ransom’ and ‘terrorists’ against the Republicans.”  The same media that spent months after the Tucson shootings having a nervous breakdown about incendiary rhetoric and a “Climate of Hate” yawns and picks some dust from its eyelashes.

The Hill report says Obama’s political team was planning for this crisis for months, which may rattle some of the people who still buy into their “Republican shutdown” mythology.  (On the other hand, and to their cost, it seems like the Republicans didn’t prepare for any of this at all.)  Maybe Valerie Jarrett isn’t the best person to have on speed dial when actual terrorists are lobbing mortar shells at Americans on foreign soil, but she sure knows how to demonize the hell out of domestic political opponents, and they’re the real enemy, right?

Maybe it’s pointless to advise a group as divided as the GOP – currently split not only along ideological lines, but between the House and Senate, which have a distressing habit of “coordinating” by lobbing sound bites at each other on the evening news – to get their act together and focus on strategy.  That includes the Tea Party wing, which is providing all the energy for the Republican caucus, and might be right about the need to take bold stands in order to move public opinion, but should also be working its strategies out three moves in advance, and taking realistic stock of the party resources available to them.  Perhaps it’s inevitable that things would be a bit messy right now, and it’s too early to say how the long game will play out, other than regretfully noting that America is stuck with ObamaCare for at least another year or two.

If nothing else, every Republican – from fiery upstarts to establishment leadership – should read these accounts of the stone-cold, win-at-any-costs, no-holds-barred White House political squad and understand what they’re up against.


View All