President Obama has been taking plenty of lumps from his fellow Democrats recently. Liberals in the party have blocked his former aide Larry Summers, whom Obama reportedly wanted to put in charge of the Federal Reserve, and defected when he was trying to rally support in Congress for authorizing military strikes against Syria.
Some political analysts concluded that the defections were weakening Obama just as he headed into high-stakes showdowns with the GOP over two budgetary matters: A stopgap spending measure to keep the government from shutting down on Oct. 1; and raising the borrowing limit to keep the nation from a potentially calamitous default on some of its debts.
Republicans, however, have plenty of problems of their own. House GOP leaders clashed openly with Tea Party conservatives over whether to try to use the spending battle to defund ObamaCare, even if that means shutting down the government, or even plunging the country into default. The hardcore fiscal conservatives got their way, embarrassing — and, some say, weakening — House GOP leaders who were determined to avoid any chance of a shutdown.
The result? The GOP is locked in an ugly intraparty brawl that is serving as "a lifeline for an administration that had been scrambling to gain control" of its message after Obama's recent string of setbacks, says Jonathan Allen at Politico.
John Dickerson at Slate agrees. Just when everyone was musing about the "sorry state" of Obama's presidency, he says, Republicans are "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" by pushing the nation to the brink of an entirely avoidable disaster, and helping Obama make the argument that they were the problem, all along. Dickerson asks:
House Republicans must feel sorry for the president — why else would they take pressure off his administration by staging their own party crackup? [Slate]
The GOP infighting is so vicious, Allen notes, that it has its own Twitter hashtag, #GOPvsGOPugliness. Some of them are doozies. As TheWeek.com's Peter Weber notes, Tea Party hero Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), in particular, has become "a piñata" for his counterparts in the House, for daring to say that Democrats had the votes in the Senate to strip the measure defunding ObamaCare from the spending bill.
It's getting pretty bad:
Wow. House gop leadership aide just told me "Wendy Davis has more balls than Ted Cruz." #gopvsgopugliness
— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) September 18, 2013
The spectacle has many leading Republicans tearing their hair out. Karl Rove, George W. Bush's former strategist, notes in The Wall Street Journal that Republicans will never get enough Democratic votes to defund ObamaCare. By forcing the issue to the point where it leads to a government shutdown, he says, they'll only alienate independents and strengthen Obama, because, while independents favor delaying ObamaCare's mandate to buy health insurance, they side with Obama, 59 percent to 33 percent, in battleground states on the question of whether the issue should be tied to keeping open the government's doors. Rove says:
The desire to strike at ObamaCare is praiseworthy. But any strategy to repeal, delay, or replace the law must have a credible chance of succeeding or affecting broad public opinion positively.
The defunding strategy doesn't. [Wall Street Journal]
Liberals, too, think the GOP feud is making Obama and the Democrats look better to a public that is nervously watching what's happening, and bracing for the damage these antics could do to an already shaky economic recovery. As Kirsten Powers puts it at The Daily Beast: "House Republicans' willingness to lay waste to the country to satisfy their fringiest faction will ultimately guarantee the GOP irrelevancy as a national party, unless they change their ways. In the meantime, they seem determined to take us all down with them."