"In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies," said Winston Churchill.
What is the truth behind the Beltway lies about these crazy Republicans crashing our government?
Twice in the last week House Republicans have voted unanimously to fund the U.S. government. If national polls are to be believed, those House Republicans are doing exactly what America wants. A majority of Americans oppose a government shutdown. And a majority oppose Obamacare.
Who, then, is preventing the government from being funded?
Harry Reid and Barack Obama. Neither will accept any continuing resolution that does not contain Obamacare. Both will shut down this city rather than accept any such CR. It is Harry and Barry who are saying: If we don't get full funding of Obamacare now, we shutdown Washington until the House delivers.
The battle, then, is over this question: Will the next great liberal entitlement program, Obamacare, with its manifest failings and flaws, be imposed upon the nation — against its will? The House says no. The Beltway says yes.
Few disagree that, in any national plebiscite, Obamacare would be buried in a landslide. Few disagree that if Obamacare were put to a vote of the Congress today, it would fail in both houses. Why, then, is it radical for the House to use its power of the purse to defund a program America does not want?
Why is it statesmanship for Obama to say he will shut down the entire government if any resolution to keep it running contains even the slightest tweak to his cherished program?
What these questions suggest is that this is at root a political and ideological war, and the Beltway has assembled its usual bodyguard of lies and liars to conceal that truth. Consider this keening from the Washington Post yesterday about the terrible consequences of a government shutdown: "[W]e would hope that Mr. Boehner would have compassion for thousands of moderately paid breadwinners who would find themselves in very difficult circumstances. We would hope he would be troubled by how a shutdown would disrupt research at the National Institute of Health and safety inspections at the Food and Drug Administration."
About this lugubrious passage, several questions: Since Reid and Obama have both said they will block any CR that does not contain Obamacare in its pristine form, why are they not charged with some responsibility for a shutdown? Answer: The Post is not interested in conveying the truth about this conflict, because in this battle it is as much a political ally of Obama as Debbie Wasserman Schultz. But it is a more effective ally, since some still presume it is being truthful and objective.
Assume that today John Boehner came out and said at a press conference: "I have taken note of the Post's concerns about an interruption of service at NIH and the FDA. I share those concerns. Therefore, at my direction, the House will vote this afternoon to fully fund both agencies." Anyone think the Washington Post would celebrate Boehner's compassion and statesmanship the next morning?
Of course not. All this weeping and gnashing of teeth about the terrible consequences of a government shutdown is designed to whip up political animosity, direct it at House Republicans, and break John Boehner. Failing that, it is to foist upon the House Republicans full responsibility for a shutdown that the House has voted twice to avoid.
What this battle confirms is that, on major national issues that pit social and populist conservatives against Big Government liberals, the Beltway press corps invariably acts like a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee.
More problematic, there is a slice of the Beltway right — the contributions bundlers and kennel-fed conservatives, the summer soldiers and sunshine patriots, the George McClellans — that prefers prancing, parading and posturing to the actual fighting.
With them the excuses are always the same. We can't win. We have been beaten on this terrain before. The press will kill us. The White House has a microphone we can't match. We will only hurt ourselves in the polls and throw away our great opportunity in the coming election. Besides, our corporate contributors don't want this fight.
Some "conservatives" even cynically suggest that the GOP let Obamacare take effect, as it will prove such a disaster there will be a backlash against it in 2014 — and from that we can benefit.
With Reid's refusal to accept the House CR with the one-year suspension of Obamacare, a shutdown became certain.
Every Republican should be out front, on TV, radio and in print this week with a simple message: "We have twice voted to fund every agency and program of the U.S. government (save Obamacare) in a single CR. We will proceed now to pass CRs for each department and agency of the U.S. government, separately and individually. And if Harry Reid's Senate refuses to pass a single one of those CRs, who then is shutting down NIH and the FDA?"
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)