Opinion Columns & Blogs

Singing the shutdown blues

At midnight on Friday, Jan. 19, the folks we elected to run the country once again failed to fulfill one of their most basic responsibilities — to appropriate funds to keep the federal government functioning. We all had to endure a long weekend of posturing, accusations, and cancelled votes before they finally got their act together and passed a resolution to get things up and running again (for a few weeks at least) on Monday afternoon.

These government shutdowns have a special significance for me since my day job involves working for Uncle Sam (the compensation I get for writing this column doesn’t quite pay well enough for me to live on, even if I were a mouse.) I know a lot of people reading this column are in the same boat.

True to form, both of our two major political parties made it a top priority to try and affix blame for their collective failure to the other side as soon as it became apparent a shutdown was going to happen. Even though I’ve seen this all before I’m still amazed that these people have the gall to spend time in front of the cameras casting their aspersions while national parks are being shuttered and soldiers are wondering when they will see a paycheck again.

Now that it’s over (for now) we might as well do a post-mortem and assess who came out of this fiasco with the most egg on their face. In order of increasing egg-face, here’s how I called it.

Republicans in Congress: I thought they won the PR war for the most part by framing the situation as the Democrats holding the country hostage over the status of people who are in the country illegally. Of course there’s no good reason why the “Dreamer” issue couldn’t have been included in a resolution to keep the country running, but they drew some blood and it’s been a while since they landed a clean blow against the other side. I’m sure they’re feeling good about themselves this week.

Democrats in Congress: They sort of had to take this one on the chin after they overplayed their hand a bit. They were probably a little too giddy over Trump’s low opinion ratings and backed themselves into a corner there was no good way out of. Now they have to deal with some internal squabbling because the more liberal voices in the party feel like they were sold out by the timidity of their more moderate members. Not good.

President Trump: He was easily the biggest loser here. He was elected as an outsider, a pragmatic deal-maker who knows how to get things done. It seems like this would have been the perfect time for the self-proclaimed expert on the “art of the deal” to step in and get an agreement done to stave off an embarrassing halt to the government for which he is the chief executive. But he only confused the process when he did try to intervene, as no one could figure out exactly what his stance was. He seemed to vacillate from one minute to the next and unceremoniously withdrew the deal he had offered in an impromptu one-on-one meeting with Chuck Schumer after his handlers convinced him he’d given away too much on immigration.

Schumer was right on the money with his characterization of trying to strike a deal with Trump as being “like negotiating with Jell-O.” Trump was wisely sidelined from the whole process once it became apparent he had nothing positive to contribute and I expect that trend to continue going forward.

Legislators in both parties have understandably lost patience trying to deal with this president, and the best thing for them and the country will be to let him amuse himself on the golf course, binge-watching Fox News, and entertaining us all on Twitter while they try and keep the country running until his time in the White House comes to a merciful conclusion.

Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at fergcolumn@hotmail.com.