In 1995 -1996, the federal government shutdown twice for a total of 22-days under the leadership of Democratic President Bill Clinton. The reasons for those shutdowns were primarily the same as they are now: The Republicans were refusing to raise the debt ceiling limit and were fighting to reduce wasteful, government spending. Public health was also an issue, although not with as powerful an impact as ObamaCare has had on the current, government crisis.
At that time, however, President Clinton far surpassed the leadership test for how a president should act during a government shutdown – far more than how President Obama has in the current one.
Although there were times when Clinton was at serious odds with his Republican rival, Newt Gingrich (who he once asked to exit from the rear door of Air Force One) the two men worked out their differences and finally came to an agreement. Newt Gingrich said himself, this past week on CNN that Clinton was engaging, involved and willing to work long hours and open to any compromises his opponents had to offer.
Is that the same thing that is happening with President Obama in Washington today?
Clearly not, because the Republican Party’s main complaint about President Obama is that he is not willing to negotiate, compromise or involve himself the way they feel a president should. The Republicans are not the only ones complaining about Obama’s lackluster performance in portraying a leadership role in helping both parties to end the shutdown.
The latest AP-GFK poll shows that President Obama’s public approval rating, since the beginning of the shutdown, has fallen to an all-time low of 37%. Although the same poll shows most Americans blame the Republicans for the shutdown, at the same time they agree Obama is not doing enough to help bring about an end to the crisis.
This morning, on CNN, Senator Paul Rand (R-Kentucky) said “Compromise is in the eyes of the beholder.” That statement, although true, leaves out the variable that compromise is also dependent on one’s steadfast, intentions. If one’s immediate goal is to destroy their opponent, in any way, shape or form, then compromise becomes an impossible, reality.
When President Obama uses the terms, hostage, hostage-taking, kidnapping and holding the country at ransom, he invokes terroristic visions in the minds of the public for how they should view the Republican Party. This may be true for how the public views certain Tea Party members, but for the most part, it is an unfair, degrading and inappropriate way for the President of the United States to refer to members of Congress.
The word “negotiation’ seems to hold no place in Obama’s vocabulary. His insistence that he is willing to negotiate, but only after the Republicans give him everything he wants, is like telling a child you will share your cookies with him after you have eaten all of them yourself. It leaves only crumbs and a false hope of trust and integrity.
President Obama has, sadly, relegated himself down to a level that is equal to that of a heckler at a baseball game. Sooner or later, his complaints become nothing more than a nuisance for those in the bleachers around him, and one who needs security to escort him out. Obama’s obvious attempt to ruin the Republican Party’s chances of doing well in the next year’s midterm elections is a clear indicator of what Obama’s ulterior motives really are.
Now that Senators Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) are the two leading players involved in ending the government shutdown, Obama will take a backseat and be nothing more than a pen-holder for the final approval and signature.
In the end, President Obama may think he has won by being stubborn, selfish and non-negotiating, but in the long run, he may lose something that is even more valuable – the public’s opinion of his skills as an effective negotiator and one who is competent enough to lead our nation.
© Joseph Rathjen – All Rights Reserved – 2013