Establishment Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina have been unsparing this week in their criticism of Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz for the government shutdown.
McConnell has been telling everyone who will listen that "a number of us were saying back in July that this strategy could not and would not work, and of course it didn't."
Similarly, Bush said in multiple interviews that “it was a mistake to focus on something that couldn’t be achieved. And that’s what that was. It was tactics."
For his part, Graham delivered what might well be the most cutting assessment, saying, “The tactic of defunding the government unless he repealed his signature issue was as poorly designed as ObamaCare itself, almost.”
Who's the boss?
Cruz appears to have suitably thick skin, responding to such criticism by reminding his inquisitors that “I don’t work for the party bosses in Washington. I work for the people of Texas and I fight for them."
There are smart people on both sides of this debate, of course, and it was clear back in the summer when the defunding Obamacare movement began gathering steam that it enjoyed less than universal support among conservatives.
But Cruz critics appear to be forgetting that the government shutdown battle isn't over and the final verdict on its impact on the 2014 congressional elections, including especially Republican prospects for gaining a majority in the Senate, won't be known until the votes are counted.
Not over yet
Judged solely by today's polls, Republicans could be in major trouble concerning 2014, but, as Nate Silver noted several weeks ago, there was no measurable impact on the 1996 races following the shutdowns that preceded them.
He attributes the lack of impact to the fleeting importance of most stories considered by Washington media as "game-changers." Months go by and voters tend to forget things talking heads can stop talking about.
There is another factor this time around that wasn't present in 1996 — Obamacare. This passage from an AP story about the failed launch of Healthcare.gov is indicative:
"The flood of computer problems since the website went online has been deeply embarrassing for the White House.
"The snags have called into question whether the administration is capable of implementing the complex policy and why senior administration officials — including the president — appear to have been unaware of the scope of the problems when the exchange sites opened."
He told us so
It is far from certain that Healthcare.gov will ever function properly as presently configured, but what is all but certain is that the Obamacare website has taken its place with the Pentagon's $600 toilet seats in the government incompetence hall of fame.
Add to that the constant drumbeat of horror stories in the coming months as millions of Americans discover their health insurance costs have skyrocketed and the health care system is being wrecked by bureaucratic and political incompetence.
Come November 2014, it may be Ted Cruz having the last word on the 2013 government shutdown.
In today's Washington Examiner
Editorial: White House flackery won't fix Obamacare.
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