The blame game begins, and the usual suspects are shooting into their own ranks. If you think you can’t hit your own feet, you aim at the toes of someone else.
The Democrats have put their nasties on hold, better to celebrate their victory. Only yesterday, the Democrats in Congress were elbowing each other away from the microphones to see whose fangs could squirt the most poisonous venom. Barbara Boxer called the Republicans “domestic abusers.” Nancy Pelosi, having misplaced her meds, shouted “anarchist” and “bomb throwers” and “hijackers” at the likes of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Harry Reid said the Republicans were guilty of “economic treason,” whatever that is. He had to add the modifier lest he be called as a witness if Mr. Cruz is to now be put on trial for his life, “treason” being a serious crime. This morning, the Democrats are laying sloppy wet kisses on John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. They’ll learn later that love you pay for is expensive at any price.
John McCain, who has never recovered from the memory of how nice the boys on the bus treated him when he was trying to take down George W. in his first race for the White House. He has been trying to recover the love since, like a man trying to rekindle the romance with an ex-wife, couldn’t wait to say “I told you so.”
He told CNN that the public has been so traumatized by the Republican mischief that “we may still have some gridlock, maybe we’ll have continuing resolutions, [but] we’re not going to shut down the government again. I guarantee it.” Lindsey Graham, his reliable echo, is thought to still be working on his own gloat.
Recriminations are what congressmen do best, and the inspection of the entrails in the wake of the vote will go on for days and weeks, but the real fun will be discovering all the bribes and grease — sometimes called “earmarks” — in the Senate bill, adopted by the House. At first glance, it looks like the usual Christmas tree for congressmen, with more than a little sugar to make the medicine go down. But why not? It’s not their money, after all. Mr. McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, got $3 billion for a dam in Kentucky. This is supposed to make Mr. McConnell stand a little taller in the bluegrass, where his re-election campaign is sputtering toward a stall.
They’re calling the contribution to the McConnell campaign the “Kentucky kickback,” recalling the infamous “Cornhusker kickback” that Barack Obama used to persuade Ben Nelson to give him the needed 60th vote to get Obamacare through the Senate in 2010. That promise turned out to be the gift of an Indian-giver. The president took back the Cornhusker kickback, and Mr. Nelson went home to husk corn. The Democrats demonstrated they have a heart for their own needy, too, appropriating $174,000 to the widow of the late Frank Lautenberg, who was one of the richest men in the Senate. Money, like time, just slips away. Apparently from widow women, too.
The Republican establishment wants to make Mr. Cruz and the Tea Party the villains of the piece, but there’s blame enough to go around. The Republican establishment is made up of klutzes, too. Mr. Cruz and the Tea Party would never have come to Washington if Mr. McCain and the Republican congressmen like him had remembered why they were sent to Washington and not given in to the sins and seductions that tempt the best among us. The Republicans have a long history of taking satisfaction in living the good life in the shadows of the Capitol. Occasionally someone comes to Congress and wants to do more than pay obeisance to the cliches, and this rattles the chains.
The Tea Party, like Mr. Obama, will still be here after the corpses are cleared from the battlefield. The Tea Party has made a difference, but it still hasn’t learned how Washington works. The party’s soldiers are likely to be quick studies. A law professor at Yale, Dan Kahan, conducted a study of 2,000 voters and learned that the Tea Partyers were better versed in science — how and why things work — than most. He was stunned. He expected to find them the dunces the mainstream media keeps telling us they are.
“I don’t know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party,” he says. “All my impressions come from watching cable TV, and I don’t watch Fox News very often, and reading The New York Times plus a variety of politics-focused Internet sites like Huffington Post and Politico. I’m a little embarrassed, but mainly, I’m just glad that I no longer hold that particular mistaken view.” Another intellectual who ain’t so dumb.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.