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Winning The Shutdown Debate

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My Monday Washington Examiner column focuses on this Richard Pollack story from Friday, which in turn examined the proceedings before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday of last week.

As news of the data mining operations of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau spreads, expect voter anger to again begin to rise.  Voter dismay has marked the Syrian crisis, and voter embarrassment.  Prepare to mix in anger. The only thing the Obama Administration seems competent to accomplish is the surveillance of this country’s citizens.  The CFPB’s vast gathering-in of all credit card transactions and mortgage applications will stun the average American who wants nothing to do with a Big Brother government checking in on their spending and borrowing habits.

The contempt for this risible presidency is peaking abroad –see “Barack Obama, the 98-pound weakling” by Margaret Wente in Canada’s Globe and Mail– or just about any other essayist on the president’s incompetence.  “I believe that Vladimir Putin has deposited part of Barack Obama’s manhood in that long-lost Social Security lockbox that Al Gore used to blather about,” declared Powerline’s Scott Johnson, and this is the consensus view, indeed the near-unanimous opinion of opinion elites from left-to-right.

It is thus completely predictable that the president and his third team band of hangers-on will try and pick a fight with Speaker John Boehner as a means to rallying the president’s dispirited troops, especially his front-line battalions in the MSM.

The president is going to force a shut-down of the government.  He may even try for two in a row, hoping that one or two fake crises provide the domestic policy p.r. solution for his “Out, damned spot! out!” foreign policy fiasco.

So this is coming.  What are the Congressional GOP’s doing about it?

Not much, at least not yet.

Instead of pointing out that the president is engineering this “showdown,” the GOP spokespeople are reliably intoning that they aren’t for a shutdown.  (See this National Journal piece as an example of the defensive rhetoric of the GOP, and for a nice selection of MSM stories already trying to pin a shutdown on the Republicans.)

If the Congressional leadership wants this to fiscal impasse to evolve into Operation Save-The-President-From-His-Syrian-Meltdown, they will stick to the old playbook, and thus get stuck with the blame for the shutdown that the president is engineering.

If by contrast they want to join the long line of people and nation-states that have run rings around the president, they will begin to message now that the CR and the debt limit debates are most certainly about Obamacare, but also about the epic incompetence of this Administration, and most especially about the president’s failure to provide for the common defense –via pre-sequester levels of defense spending– and to honor the commitment to “secure the blessings of liberty” guaranteed in the Preamble and made explicit in the Fourth Amendment,

Lay out the must-haves:

1. No more tax hikes;

2. An end to the DoD sequester;

3. Modifications to Obamacare to allow the people to vote in 2014 on what has become a parody of a train-wreck before it entirely upends the health care plans of a majority of Americans;

4. An end to the CFPB’s outside-of-oversight status and especially its wildly aggressive data mining, and

5. Meaningful oversight of the national security data collection to assure citizens that they are not the object of the government’s snooping.

The president will want the CR-debt ceiling debate to be about food stamps and a variety of other domestic policy “red-lines.”.  The GOP must make it about national security, the beleaguered taxpayer, the preservation of the health care system and the protection of individual privacy.

The backdrop to this debate is the president’s now widely accepted and acknowledged enormous limitations as a leader.  If the Speaker steps up, this debate could break decisively for the agenda of restraining the government while assuring the number one priority of the government –the common defense– is served.

Watch the Hill to see if any sort of coherent messaging emerges from the GOP. Thus far it hasn’t been there, but the GOP can be excused for not trying to communicate in the middle of a national security nightmare.

Now the president has pivoted (fled from, teamed with?) Putin, the GOP has to be fully engaged on every platform open to it.  It cannot be dragged into Gangs of 4,6, 8 or 50.  It cannot send the Speaker down to 1600 to “negotiate” with the most unreliable negotiating partner in modern American history.  It has to win an argument, an argument with the president and made to the public via a deeply biased MSM hut which is also being communicated via a thousand pipelines that the GOP D.C. elite seems barely to understand exists.  If most GOPers from the Speaker down to the lowest ranking freshman makes the same argument, and is backed up by the governors and the key opinion influencers, the president will fold, just as he did on Syria, just as he has done with everyone else in every situation where they have stood up to his absurd rhetoric and his wildly inflated opinion of himself and his policies.

Make the case.  Make it again and again and lay out the objectives.  To be weaker than the president is to ask to be thrown from power.

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