The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Columns

October 9, 2013

Primus Mootry: The backstory of government shutdown, Obamacare and legacy

A backstory is the story behind the story. Since the first of October, we have been flooded with television cable and network news stories about the government shutdown. The short story is that a right-wing faction within the House of Representatives has used Obamacare as their main reason for not acting to lift the debt ceiling, thereby forcing the shutdown. President Barack Obama wisely has refused to negotiate with them. (More on that later.)

But there is a story behind this story. Either by accident or design, various media have framed the issue as a blame game. Who is to blame for this dangerous and embarrassing situation? Is it Democrats or Republicans? President Obama or Speaker of the House John Boehner? Is it freshman Sen. Ted Cruz and the tea party faction of the Republican Party? All of the above?

In my opinion, this blame game is a useless diversion from the backstory. The central question is not who or what. It’s why. If a foreign power or terrorist source somehow posed a credible threat to throw America into default (i.e., a possible outcome of continuing deadlock), we might consider it an act of war. Why would we do it to ourselves?

I think the answer lies in factional hatred of President Obama. Think about it. In their second terms, U.S. presidents typically are interested in a thing called legacy. It is inconceivable that any sitting U.S. president would want history to record them as the president who deliberately, recklessly, shamelessly, stupidly trashed ours (and possibly the world’s) economy. The last thing President Obama wants to see is a government shutdown. Now, please consider this view of Obamacare.

Obamacare enrollment happened the same day as the government shutdown. President Obama’s snarling opponents on the Hill made Obamacare — the promise of insurability to 50 million uninsured Americans — a bogus sticking point. Raising the debt ceiling is a routine function of governing. As mentioned earlier, according to the president, the new health care law and paying our bills are totally unrelated and not subject to negotiation. I think he’s right. There’s more.

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