The government shutdown that took effect on October 1 crippled our nation, soured our resolve and imperiled our nation’s status quo. The gridlock that forced the closure of government facilities and furloughed federal workers did not just bring America to a standstill, it brought us to a standoff.
We are all aware that partisanship has regrettably become a central part of the political process. However, the standoff that we have seen between the Congressional leaders and the White House has taken partisan politics to perhaps a new all-time low. I am not just referring to the unwillingness of our Congressional leaders to compromise and do the right thing for the betterment of our country and its citizens, I am talking about the heated political rhetoric that came to define the government shutdown.
Looking at some of the verbiage that has been callously and casually bantered about during the shutdown, one would think that we are in the middle of an outright war. However, this is not a military exercise; it is an exercise in political dysfunction.
Speaker John Boehner, the Republican leader of the House of Representatives, has used terms such as “an unconditional surrender,” “it is time for us to stand and fight,” “it was time for us to take a stand” and “we’re in the fight.”
President Obama, who appeared visibly irritated at the manner in which the Republican Congressional leadership has acted relative to the shutdown, has also expressed his extreme displeasure through the use of military-like expressions. In discussing what he termed the “Republican shutdown,” the President said that “they’ve shut down the government over an ideological crusade,” “they don’t get to hold the entire economy hostage over ideological demands” and “the House Republicans...don’t get to demand ransom in exchange for doing their jobs.”
The war-like rhetoric did not stop there. Rank and file lawmakers also got into the act. Democratic Congressman George Miller of California referred to the Republicans’ “jihad against Americans’ access to health care.” Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan talked about the fact that “the last place you want to be fighting a fight is on the enemy’s territory where they know it best.” Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, said “I know we don’t want to be here, but we’re going to win this, I think.”
While I understand that emotions are running high in Washington, D.C. over the first federal government shutdown in 17 years, there is no simply excuse for the war-mongering that has ensued.
One of the hallmarks of the Obama presidency is the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare, as it is commonly known, was the target of criticisms and challenges from the Republicans virtually from the get-go. Although it has been enacted into law and was upheld in the courts, the Republican leaders in Congress are trying to leverage their power to fund the government by tying it to a last-ditch attempt to throw a monkey wrench into the Affordable Care Act.
What was a bad situation became much worse in light of the fact that Congressional approval is also required to raise the debt ceiling, which would essentially enable the United States to pay its bills. This relatively common ministerial act became intertwined with the Congressional showdown with the Executive Branch.
I fully understand the gravity of the situation in Washington and the implications of the government shutdown. This is a high-stakes game and certainly neither side wants to lose. Unfortunately, what Congress fails to recognize is that the only loser in this game is the American people.
Political disagreements happen all the time. In this particular instance, our government leaders engaged in an intense spat and each side passionately believes that they are right. However, the utilization of militant language is not a sound approach. Giving the American people the impression that this is an all-out war serves only to stoke the flames and further exacerbate an already tenuous situation.
Americans are tired of the fiery rhetoric and their confidence in our Congressional leaders is waning. In the eyes of many, this latest skirmish—the Congressional Revolution—is comparable to young children quarrelling in the playground. The behavior exhibited and the language being used is conduct unbecoming of our governmental leaders. It is time for Congress to end this “battle” and go back to what they were elected to do, namely, governing and representing the American people.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York may have said it best. While discussing the government shutdown, she referenced her five-year-old son, Henry. “This is much more like what I deal with Henry in the morning when he says ‘I want candy for breakfast.’ It’s really a tantrum…‘you either give me my way, or we’re going to shut down the government.’”
I, for one, am looking forward to the end of the Congressional Revolution and the return of good governance in Washington. The American people deserve nothing less.
N. Aaron Troodler is an attorney and a principal of Paul Revere Public Relations, a public relations and political consulting firm. Visit him on the Web at www.PaulReverePR.com or at www.JewishWorldPR.com or follow him on Twitter: _troodler
By N. Aaron Troodler, Esq.