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Politics of shutdown particularly pernicious

Did we all just have the same bad dream?

Did yours involve a partial government shutdown and non-stop blathering in the media about it?

Well, they say conflict makes news.

And everybody loves a good drama.

Still, haven’t we seen this horror story before?

Happy Halloween.

IN WAR, THEY SAY, truth is the first casualty.

And nowhere is that more true than on the political battlefield of Washington.

Among the warriors in this latest skirmish are the presumptive 2014 candidates in the 17th Congressional District, which includes Whiteside and Carroll counties.

They would be first-term Democratic incumbent Cheri Bustos and the one-term Republican congressman she unseated last November, Bobby Schilling.

The Republican National Congressional Committee has peppered the press with regular “news” updates with such headlines as “Bustos votes for government shutdown,” “Why is Cheri Bustos trying to deceive voters?” and “Cheri Bustos hits all time low.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee countered with its own report on “‘Shutdown’ Bobby Schilling.”

“Former one-term Tea Party Congressman Bobby Schilling ... has now embraced a government shutdown,” the DCCC reported to the media.

Brace yourself. The election is still 54 weeks away.

NO, YOU DIDN’T read that day-to-day tit for tat in this newspaper.

Is it news? You decide.

But you can never believe anything, anything, a candidate says about an opponent.

That also applies to the campaign apparatus supporting a candidate.

Political speech is full of exaggerations that are intended to mislead and deceive.

Did Bustos really vote “for government shutdown,” as the NRCC said?

Well, yes ... and no.

She, and every other Democrat in the House, voted against the Republican majority’s bills to fund the government only if the Affordable Care Act was defunded or delayed.

Is that a vote to shut down the government, or a vote to preserve Obamacare?

The answer, obviously, is yes ... unless you think it’s no.

POLLS INDICATE THE public blamed Republicans for the shutdown.

Studies show the media did, too.

Even many Republicans in Congress had harsh words for their tea party faction that forced the Obamacare issue. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called that approach “a strategy that was doomed to fail.”

The fact is, House Republicans all along had agreed to fund the government, but only if the ACA was defunded or delayed.

In the Senate, Democrats (and Republicans) also voted to fund the government, but with no strings attached.

So, which party was responsible for the shutdown?

Well, which party, in the end, dropped its conditions, which led to the agreement on funding and the debt ceiling?

Exactly.

DEMOCRATS HAVE shown very little budget discipline in Congress for decades.

Republicans, on the other hand, have advocated strict spending controls – whenever a Democrat occupies the White House. At other times, their record on budget deficits and the debt is very Democratic.

With a Democrat now sitting in the White House, the debt and deficits have never been more important to Republicans.

But that wasn’t entirely what was behind the dispute over the continuing resolution for short-term government funding.

Republicans were not happy that President Obama had said for months he would not negotiate to get funding approved or the debt ceiling lifted.

So they approved the funding with a provision that the ACA be repealed. Later, their condition was that implementation be delayed a year.

Still later, Republicans insisted the president “negotiate” over other matters of government spending. If you’re not sure what exactly they wanted, you’re not alone.

“We’re not going to be disrespected,” Republican Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana told The Washington Examiner. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

Negotiate that!

IN AN OPINION piece published last weekend by the Journal Star in Peoria, ex-Rep. Schilling blamed Obama for the shutdown.

“He still wants everything his way with no negotiation and no compromise,” Schilling wrote.

“Negotiate” was an interesting word choice during the shutdown.

Generally, the term implies that both sides give up something, and neither side gets everything it wants.

For Republicans, “negotiations” meant the president would agree to repeal or delay the ACA. That’s what he would have to give up.

And what did House Republicans offer to give up in “negotiations”? More revenue? Spending for social programs? Uh ... nothing?

For the purpose of pure gamesmanship, Democrats should have proposed the expansion of Obamacare into a government-run, “single payer” system that took private companies out of the health insurance business.

Then each side could have “negotiated” by giving up its unacceptable condition for funding the government.

But the president had said from the beginning he would not negotiate, even for the sake of playing that political game.

And he didn’t.

REP. BUSTOS HAS come under fire not only from her enemies on the political right, but from her friends on the left.

In July, she was among 22 House Democrats who joined 229 House Republicans in voting to postpone Obamacare’s requirement that all Americans have health insurance, effective Jan. 1.

That vote was the 38th attempt by the House to repeal all or part of the new health insurance plan. The House has since pushed the number of such votes into the mid-40s.

The liberal interest group MoveOn started an online petition, district by district, to challenge those 22 Democratic defectors, including Bustos.

“Across the country, MoveOn members are demanding answers from Democrats who voted for a one-year delay on the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate, and holding them accountable for trying to delay President Obama’s landmark health care legislation from going into effect,” according to a MoveOn news release.

Although the NRCC never thanked Bustos for her July vote, it duly noted that she had “flip flopped her stance” on the 1-year delay in a funding bill related to the partial government shutdown.

Going to be a long, long 54 weeks.

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