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Inside the Beltway: Festering anger at the federal government

- The Washington Times - Monday, September 30, 2013

Confusion over Obamacare, shutdown hysteria and continued partisan discord have yielded results: Public anger at the federal government is at the highest point on record. So says a Pew Research Center survey gauging the ire and frustration of Americans. Some are angrier than others: "Anger is most palpable among conservative Republicans — 41 percent say they are angry at the federal government, the highest among any partisan group," the research says.

The number is 26 percent among the general public and 18 percent among liberal Democrats, and 50 percent among Republicans who support the tea party.

No one should be surprised by this reaction, since a concerted effort by the White House, Democratic leadership and a sympathetic liberal media has vilified Republicans. The phrase "reckless and irresponsible" has been repeatedly employed by President Obama and his staff in the past week to describe the GOP. This too has yielded results. Recent polls reveal that Americans have been persuaded to "blame" Republicans for trying to defang the Affordable Care Act, though Republicans argue they are the ones who tried to find a compromise and to protect their fellow citizens both as consumers and as citizens from an unwieldy, unpredictable law.

THE SHUTDOWN MEDIA

Is it a fauxdown or a showdown? Leave it to a crisis, either real or manufactured, to produce its own signature journalism.

Among the most popular one-word descriptions in the press during the last 24 hours before a government shutdown in any form: showdown, staredown, standoff, ping-pong, brinkmanship, blinkmanship, stalemate, cliffhanger, deadlock.

Crisis is in the eye of the beholder. The most popular adjective in news coverage: "looming." The shutdown has been looming, as far as the press is concerned, for many weeks.

Interpretive headlines of note in the past 24 hours: "Shutdown could be shock therapy" (CNN); "Threat of shutdown is windfall for political fundraisers (the Los Angeles Times); "GOP flunks hostage-taking 101" (The Washington Post); "Boehner won't blink" (MSNBC); "Reid is rigid" (Fox News); "GOP's touch-the-stove moment" (Politico); "The suicidal shutdown" (Daily Beast); "National Zoo panda cam would go dark in a shutdown" (ABC News); and "Shutdown or no shutdown, Ted Cruz wins" (Bloomberg).

'SHODDY, BURDENSOME'

Democrats and the press have drummed up hysteria over a government shutdown for weeks, though a Justice Department legal analysis has deemed the term "entirely inaccurate," as the safety of the public and security of the nation will never be compromised. "Such a lapse in funding would be neither catastrophic nor unprecedented. There have been 17 funding gaps just since 1977, ranging in duration from one to 21 days," says Hans A. von Spakovsky, legal analyst for the Heritage Foundation.

"It is certainly true that 'nonessential' federal employees will be furloughed. But so many federal employees are considered 'essential' that when President Bill Clinton vetoed a continuing resolution in November 1995 in a dispute with Newt Gingrich over a balanced budget and welfare reform, only about 800,000 out of a total of almost 4.5 million federal employees were furloughed," Mr. von Spakovsky points out.

"National parks probably will be closed because they are not considered essential, and there is little doubt that President Obama will shut down other highly visible but nonessential government offices in order to annoy as many members of the ordinary public as possible, while shifting the blame for the shutdown to Republicans and away from his unreasonable refusal to negotiate," the analyst continues.

"The danger doesn't come from a temporary lapse in government funding. The danger comes from implementing a shoddy, burdensome, expensive program to nationalize health care and refusing to reduce out-of-control spending," he adds.

COMPLETELY OVERLOOKED

"Through hunting and fishing, in traditions handed down from generation to generation, families strengthen their bonds and individuals forge connections with the great outdoors. They rise before dawn to cast a line on a misty stream or wait patiently in a stand as a forest awakes. Parents help toddlers reel in their first catch, and young hunters master the call of a wild turkey. Anglers and hunters have played an integral role, living up to their legacy as some of our nation's strongest defenders of wild places. In addition to its significance as a time-honored tradition, outdoor recreation supports millions of jobs."

— from President Obama's proclamation recognizing National Hunting and Fishing Day, which was Saturday.

SCOTT THE GO-TO GUY

The incumbent is getting a little nervous. An urgent fundraising message from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen notes that Scott P. Brown — yes, the former U.S. senator from Massachusetts — has crossed the border and joined up with the New Hampshire Republican party for his seventh fundraiser in the Granite State this year. This is making the New Hampshire Democrat a little uncomfortable.

That reveals a lot about his future plans," the message from hubby Bill Shaheen explains.

"Karl Rove's been talking up a Brown run for months, hailing him as a 'ninth-generation Granite Stater.' With Rove trumpeting his cause, Brown would have access to millions in support from secret, shadowy super PACs. They're desperate to take control of the Senate and turn it into the House."

The Midwest calls, meanwhile. Mr. Brown also will headline the Ronald Reagan Dinner in Bettendorf, Iowa, this following an August appearance at the Iowa State Fair. But what's he running for? Boston Herald political analyst Laurel Sweet surmises that Mr. Scott is playing "spin-the-bottle with his political future" and has now become the go-to guy for the entire GOP.

"He's just a good Republican hoping to get other Republicans noticed and trying to support their campaigns. I think that's known as an astute politician," Jack Thomas, a New Hampshire Republican Committee official, tells the Herald. "He has not spoken to me about his political aspirations."

POLL DU JOUR

• 47 percent of Americans say the budget battle between President Obama and Republicans in Congress is an attempt by both sides to gain "political advantage"; 39 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of Democrats agree.

• 37 percent overall say it is an "important battle" over principles and the future of government; 49 percent of Republicans and 40 percent of Democrats agree.

• 40 percent overall say President Obama has "acted more responsibly" in the budget battle than GOP leaders; 9 percent of Republicans and 77 percent of Democrats agree;

• 35 percent overall say GOP leaders are acting more responsibly; 73 percent of Republicans and 9 percent of Democrats agree.

• 25 percent say neither party's members are acting more responsibly; 18 percent of Republicans and 14 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Gallup poll of 1.024 U.S. adults conducted Sept. 27-28.

Looming cliffhangers, standoffs to jharper@washingtontimes.

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