Whether it turns truly apocalyptic or ends up just being a short break in standard operating procedure, there's plenty of blame to go around when it comes assigning responsibility for the government shutdown.
The one thing that shouldn't be slighted, though, is that it is ultimately Barack Obama's fault. He's the deciderer, right, the top dog? The eight years of his time in office will be known to future generations as the Obama Years and not the Boehner Perplex or the Reid Interregnum.
With great power—and Obama insists he has the unilateral right to kill anyone, even a U.S. citizen, that represents a national security threat—comes great responsiblity.
Instead, President Obama is indulging in incredible displays of peevishness such as this one yesterday during an interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep. Asked what he might offer to House Republicans, who have called for, most recently, a delay in Obamacare's individual mandate and a bunch of other late-breaking proposals generally unrelated to how much the government will be spending over the next 12 months:
"Steve when you say what can I offer? I shouldn't have to offer anything," Obama said. "They're not doing me a favor by paying for things that they have already approved for the government to do. That's part of their basic function of government; that's not doing me a favor. That's doing what the American people sent them here to do, carrying out their responsibilities.
Yeah, you shouldn't have to offer anything, Mr. President. What is it that you like to say in such situations? I won. Get over it.
But you do have to offer something now because you didn't make sure to get a spending plan in place when there was more time to screw around.
Indeed, the shutdown is happening because the federal government doesn't have a budget for fiscal 2014, which starts today. The reason it doesn't have a budget is because the Republican-led House passed a budget calling for $3.5 trillion in spending, the Democratically controlled Senate passed a budget calling for $3.7 trillion in spending, and President Obama issued a proposal calling for $3.77 trillion in spending. This happened back in the spring. The House and the Senate passed their budget plans in late March. The president's proposal, the last to be issued, came out on April 10.
After that, the House and the Senate are supposed to hash out differences (always with plenty of presidential input and noodging) and then come up with a document for the president to sign. That didn't happen for all sorts of reason. Frustrated by the pathetic showing of Mitt Romney in the 2012 elections and the Supreme Court ruling upholding Obamacare, House Republicans were in no mood to do their most basic function. The Senate hadn't passed a budget in four years, so maybe they were so impressed with themselves that they had no interest in finishing the job, which meant seeing it through to completion. Both the House and the Senate budgets passed basically on straight party line votes, with a couple of interesting twists (for instance, libertarian-leaning GOP members of Congress such as Reps. Amash and Massie voted against their party's budget because it spent too much for their tastes; in the Senate, four Democrats and all Republicans voted against that chamber's plan). President Obama was two months late with his document and it was widely dissed by liberals and conservatives alike for a wide-ranging variety of reasons.
And then…nothing happened. There is no question that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are sad sacks who command little respect and less loyalty. Like the Jim Wrights and Tom Daschles of congressional history, they will be even more forgotten in the future than they are today.
But Barack Obama…he's a different beast, isn't he? He's fond of insisting that because Obamacare passed along strict party lines back in 2010, when the Democrats had majorities in the House and the Senate, that it's a done deal. Will of the people, that sort of thing. Even the Supreme Court upheld it. Suck it, Republicans. I won—get over it. His pique is understandable, even as I wish Obamacare had never been passed, much less upheld.
But Obamacare also helped spark a Republican resurgence in the 2010 midterms and the Democrats lost the House. They didn't lose in spite of your programs, Mr. President. They lost because of your first two years in office, when you signed on to Bush's TARP plan, expanded unpopular military actions, pushed a stimulus that failed by your own predicted measures of success, and forced through a health-care plan that people still don't like.
Then you compounded legislative issues by failing to kick the asses of sorry little functionaries like John Boehner and Harry Reid to pass budgets on a regular basis. At this point, you're one for five, batting .200 on budgets. If you had forced the budget process, most Americans would never have learned of the debt limit, whose increase you used to rail against so eloquently. It's hard, after all, for Congress not to pass increases to pay for spending it budgeted through the normal budget process.
Like a head-in-the-clouds grad-school layabout, you yourself were late on just about everything too, such as Obamacare deadlines and this year's budget plan. Think about it: You became unpopular enough that Americans were willing to vote back into partial power the same team that gave us the goddamn Bush years.
You lost total control of the federal government and thus the ability to not have to offer anything. Get over it. Figure out how to fix the impasse and spend way more money than the American people think the government should be spending.
After all, it's your name on the era.