Today’s New Books and ARCs, 10/18/13

Nothing like a hearty stack of new books and ARCs to take you into the weekend. Take a look and tell me in the comments which of these titles calls out to you, like a texty siren.


The Aftermess

Some not-terribly well-organized thoughts on the Shutdown and its immediate aftermath, in no particular order:

1. If there was one quote that for me crystallized the whole idiocy of the shutdown debacle, the sheer inchoate, juvenile foot-stompery of it, it was this one, from Indiana Representative Marlin Stutzman:

“We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

Stutzman later tried to qualify his all too-honest statement, for which he was deservingly pilloried, but the original works well enough. Once it became clear that the ACA wasn’t going to go away, the House GOP was looking for something, anything, that they thought Obama might agree to so they could declare victory to the people who would be willing to see something, anything that they got from Obama as a win. What it was didn’t matter, as long as they got something.

And, I don’t know. Maybe that was the plan all along — say they were aiming for Obamacare, which they knew they weren’t going to get, and actually settle for a whole raft of other legislative goodies they wanted but couldn’t get any other way, like pipelines and drilling and killing net neutrality. Basically, whatever they could get away with. I don’t think it was this because I don’t credit the legislators who pulled this stunt with a surfeit of genuine political savvy, and in any event rank and file schmoes like Stutzman certainly weren’t clued into any deeper political machinations. But maybe it was. Maybe.

Obama gave them jack. They got nothing, or something as close to nothing (income verification for ACA recipients, which Rachel Maddow noted was a thing already in the law) as to make no difference. And all it cost was an estimated $24 billion divot out of the economy, the shutdown of the government and hundreds of thousands out of work, a whole bunch of points in every poll taken during the shutdown, and one of the great legislative faceplants in modern political history.

A relevant question for Stutzman and every other House GOP legislator who thought shutting down the government and taking the country to the brink of default to try to blackmail the president and Senate into giving them things they couldn’t otherwise get was a useful idea: Dude, what makes you think you deserve respect in the first place? Grinding the government to a halt as a form of legislative extortion is, in the most polite word I can think of which applies here, shameful. To do it with no clear idea of the purpose of your actions makes you a tool. Stutzman, et al got what they deserved out of the shutdown: Nothing, including respect. 

Mind you, Stutzman is back in his district saying he doesn’t regret the shutdown. I wouldn’t expect him or any other of the folks who precipitated the shutdown to say anything but that , for one of two reasons. The first is that it hurts when your ass is handed to you and so you try to scrape up some pride. The second is that some people are simply too deluded to never not declare victory. I don’t know which Stutzman is; I will charitably ascribe him to the first.

2. I noted a week ago that there were three options as to why John Bohener was allowing the rabble-rousing wing of his party as much latitude as he did, the second (and most likely in my opinion) option of which was that they would turn on him if he didn’t give them enough rope to hang themselves with, after which he could pass a sane bill raising the debt limit and getting the government back to work. And in fact that’s pretty much what happened.

With hindsight being 20/20, Boehner seems to be getting some credit for managing an unmanageable group of members as best as was possible under the circumstances. I think that’s true, although I think it should be noted that when your best includes a government shutdown, that’s a pretty large asterisk. Politico, which labels him a “winner” of the shutdown because his stature has increased with the hard right in the House, wonders if he’ll be able to capitalize on this new stature to get those folks to pass reasonably sane legislation.

I’m gonna go ahead and answer that one now: Not a chance, in part because many of the folks who precipitated this late crisis think the problem was they they didn’t go far enough. The Dunning-Kruger caucus of the House GOP is still open for business, and they’ll still be causing Boehner headaches, and he’ll still have to deal with them like he’s dealing with angry children made of boom. He must really love being Speaker, is all I can say about that.

3. On a related note, apparently Mitch McConnell is assuring various and sundry that Obamacare won’t be the cause of another government shutdown. That’s nice, but McConnell is in the Senate, not the House, and as noted above, there’s at least a few folks in the House who seem to think the problem with their strategy this time wasn’t that it was foolish and stupid, but that they didn’t execute on it perfectly, and practice makes perfect. So call me unconvinced the lesson has been entirely learned. Hell, McConnell can’t even get the “no more shutdown” memo to Ted Cruz.

4. About Ted Cruz: Look, the dude’s an asshole, and it shouldn’t be entirely surprising that an asshole who declared at Harvard Law that he wouldn’t have anyone who attended a “minor Ivy” in his study group is the same asshole who accuses his fellow Republican senators of “carpetbombing” the House GOP. It’s also fairly obvious that Cruz sees his senatorial tenure as an inconvenient but necessary way station on the road to the White House, so it should additionally be not terribly surprising that he’s not interested in playing nice with the other senators, including the ones in his own party, or cares what damage his actions do to them. He doesn’t plan to be there that long.

(Dear GOP: please have Ted Cruz as your 2016 presidential candidate. Oh, please. Oh, please.)

5. Obama: Dude looks tired these days, and that pretty much sums it up.

I have a friend who maintains that the whole plan for the shutdown and debt limit debacle was to drive the country to default so that Obama would be obliged to try to raise the debt limit via executive authority, or authorize a trillion-dollar coin, at which point the House would vote to impeach him. I think this is basically an entertaining paranoid fantasy, and even if it weren’t it would be a debacle for the GOP, first because the Senate is held by the Democrats and second because Obama would be impeached for acting to protect the full faith and credit of the US because the House refused to do so because they wanted to impeach Obama for something. Again, I don’t credit the GOP for much in the strategy department these days, but I suspect even they can see how that would work out for them. So, yeah: Don’t think so.

On the other hand, the GOP are still who they are, and that’s not going to change until January  2015 at least. I expect to see Obama looking even more tired by then.

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