In 1995 the issue was Medicare. The Democrats had one talking point: "The Republicans want to cut Medicare and give a tax cut to their rich constituents." You heard that from every Democrat at every turn. Forget that it wasn't true, it was repeated so often and never challenged by the media that it stuck. The truth was the Republicans were merely trying to slow the rate of growth. There was no cut in Medicare but that didn't matter. What mattered was Speaker Newt Gingrich had become a lightning rod in American politics. Even those who admired his guts and his leadership skills had a hard time dealing with his arrogance and his ego. There is no Newt Gingrich to focus on in this current budget fight.
Secondly, the issue is dramatically different. Medicare was an issue that resonated with everyone. We all paid into the program and seniors were due what was coming to them. To think that anyone would cut that (which they weren't) rubbed people the wrong way. Couple that with the accusation that Newt and the boys were greasing the palms of wealthy donors with a tax cut (which they weren't) and you can see how they lost the argument.
The issue today is Obamacare, a program of which millions of Americans are terrified. They've heard the reports of numerous companies cutting employee hours below 30 per week to get around the tremendous cost increases. They've seen co-workers laid off in anticipation of its implementation. They've witnessed the nightmare of the exchange launch. They're happy with their health insurance now and they are frightened everything about it is going to change and change for the worse.
Like they did with their Mediscare tactics in 1995 the Democrats tried to create Obamascare. It blew up in their faces. Harry Reid was so sure a repeat of 1995 was inevitable that he got cocky. A little too cocky. He shot down every proposal for compromise from the House Republicans to the point that it became obvious he was the obstructionist, not the House Republicans.
Then came the kids with cancer. Reid thought he had found the perfect photo op. Kids with cancer were being locked out of clinical trials because workers from the National Institutes of Health were being furloughed. He blamed the heartless Republicans of wanting to kill little children. Then John Boehner outflanked him. Boehner offered to fully fund the NIH with a stand-alone bill. Harry Reid rejected the offer which led to a question from CNN reporter Dana Bash that encapsulated the whole government shutdown fight.
"But if you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn't you do it?" Bash asked Reid. Harry's response? "Why would we want to do that?"
Wow! Frying pan? Meet fire.
Then there were the World War II veterans. They flew into Washington on Honor Flights, a program designed to take veterans near the end of their lives on a final trip to pay tribute to their fallen comrades at the World War II Memorial. The memorial is an open-air park that's open 24/7, regardless of whether or not park employees are around. Obama sent barricades to keep them out. They ignored the barricades and visited the memorial anyway. As one veteran said, "Normandy was closed when we got there, too."
What a powerful scene. Men from the greatest generation who fought to save the world from the Nazis were being played by an egotistical, spoiled brat who was on the verge of being stripped of the chance to force-feed his socialist agenda down the throats of the American people. The initial confrontation was a PR nightmare so what did the president do? He doubled down. The next day he had the park service erect a fence to keep the veterans out, a move that obviously cost much more money in the midst of a government shutdown than allowing these men to pay tribute to their lost friends. They stormed the fence, too, leaving park personnel with the unenviable task of arresting 90-year-old men in wheelchairs. As one park police officer put it, "I'm not going to enforce the 'no stopping or standing' sign for a group of 90 World War II veterans," according to WND.com "I'm a veteran myself."
They whipped fascism in their teens and in their 90s they may very well have whipped socialism.
What Democrats hoped would be a story of mean, ole Republicans shutting down the government ended up being Democrats with a nasty streak who were willing to deny kids with cancer the care they needed and World War II heroes a chance to say a final goodbye to friends they lost on the battlefield just to score political points.
Make no mistake about it, Government Shutdown 2013 is Obama's Katrina.