Hardball Works

It would be easy to gloat over the fact that Republicans backed down (sort of) from their threat to cripple the American economy by destroying the full faith and credit of the United States government if they don't get everything they want. True, they didn't withdraw their debt-ceiling threat, they just said they're going to put it off for three months. But we can give them a bit of credit for stepping back and realizing that they were acting like a bunch of crazy people.

It's a sign of the times that when congressional Republicans announce that they'll put off intentionally tanking the American economy for an entire 90 days, we react as though reason and sanity have finally returned to Washington. The bill that Speaker Boehner will allow to the floor of the House for a vote will also include a provision withholding pay for members of Congress unless the Senate passes a budget in that time. Gimmicky? Sure? Unconstitutional? Yep. (The 27th Amendment mandates that changes to Congress' paychecks don't take effect until the next Congress is seated.)

What this episode teaches us, first of all, is that when their corporate benefactors tell Republicans they don't like what they're doing, the Republicans eventually change their tune. That's what happened here—even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is essentially the lobbying arm of the Republican party's corporate wing, said the threat of default shouldn't be used as a bargaining chip.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, there's a lesson for the White House: Hardball works. Unlike in previous crises, President Obama didn't try to make a bunch of pre-concessions in the hope that Republicans would moderate their position. He simply told them that the debt ceiling wasn't up for negotiation. It just had to be raised, and that was all there was to it. And what do you know, he won. For three months at least. Then we get to do it all over again.

So They Say

"If you had told me a year and a half ago that the White House would be devoting time writing [an official statement] on how Lord Vader could fix our economic woes, I would have just laughed loudly at you."

 —A White House staffer lamenting what the We the People petitions have descended into (secessionists and Star Wars nerds)

Daily Meme: GOP's Conservative Outrage

  • Another week, another handful of reasons for conservatives to be outraged.
  • First there were those 23 executive actions, a clear sign of monarchy, dictatorship, and the end of democracy.
  • Spankin'-new senator Ted Cruz thinks the gun-control initiatives are a sign that Obama's "high on his own power," and that "this is a president who has drunk the Kool-Aid." 
  • And not only is he drunk on the Kool-Aid, he is a MEANIE.
  • Never mind the fact that you have to go back to Grover Cleveland to find someone who's signed as few executive orders (or the fact that Obama wasn't even signing executive orders). Doesn't matter. Hitler!
  • Speaking of 20th-century dictatorships, Obamacare is fascism, according to the Whole Foods CEO.
  • And now, at the end of the week, we have the best in conservative quibbles, as well as a blast from conservative outrage past all wrapped up into one! Thanks to the surge of fake girlfriend gossip due to Deadspin's report on Manti T'eo, the rightwing press has taken it the natural logical leap. You know what this is exactly like? Obama's composite girlfriend!
  • The American Thinker's been big on the "what do composite girlfriends tell us about the leader of the free world" beat for quite some time.
  • Rush Limbaugh says "maybe it's a Hawaiian thing to make up girlfriends."
  • The National Review wonders, "perhaps if Manti Te’o could find a way to spend the country into oblivion and turn the finest health-care system in the world into a dysfunctional bureaucracy the press would cut him some slack."
  • Donald Trump on the other hand, loved the Deadspin story!
  • To which Deadspin replies, "Go fuck yourself." And the outrage circle of life reneweth once more.

What We're Writing

  • Abby Rapoport shows how things have gotten super awk between Austin and Lance Armstrong.
  • As we draw closer to the withdrawal in Afghanistan promised at the close of 2014, Paul Waldman looks back at America's longest war.

What We're Reading

  • Jimmy Kimmel asked people what they thought about the inauguration, despite the fact it hasn't happened. They had lots of opinions.
  • The beauty of D.C. is its culture. Not its terrible eyebrows
  • Chris Christie came out against the NRA's now-infamous First Children ad and has convened a panel to address gun control. It's all good for the boss until Charlton Heston's ghost makes the scene.
  • Take some weekend time to read a series from OilPrice on scarcity and why shale oil might not be all it's fracked up to be. Turns out all crude things must come to an end.
  • The Washington Post shows us how the presidency is a lot like the grail scene from The Last Crusade. Skip to 2011 if you want to see it get gruesome.
  • For the first time ever, more folks have been arrested for pot possession than for all our shootings, stabbings, punchings, kickings, and slappings combined. Good thing Obama has 'bigger fish to fry'.
  • After the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Muckrock got snubbed for FOIA requests on surveillance activities, the Justice Department stepped it up and gave the ACLU 111 blacked-out pages. Laugh now, because they're watching.
  • Out of all that 2012 super PAC cash, 80 percent of it was siphoned through 20 consulting firms, making the battlefield on which elections are fought look even narrower. 

Poll of the Day

Rasmussen finds that 65 percent of Americans see the Second Amendment as a protection against the tyranny of their own government and, funky survey wording aside, that's distressing. Mostly because it's, uh, wrong.

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