Newt Gingrich led the GOP to a massive victory in the 1994 elections.
He and Clinton went nose to nose, Clinton won.
The battle was the Federal Government shutdown of late 1995.
I remember it well. The country was outraged by the shutdown, Clinton successfully blamed the Republicans, his popularity went through the roof, Gingrich became a pariah, and the GOP gave up on any reform agenda and went native in DC. It was an unconditional, unmitigated victory for Clinton.
Obama has sent a budget to Congress. Obama’s budget makes no effort whatsoever to cut spending.
Obama is not “failing to lead” as some people are claiming. That is all wrong.
All suggestions to that effect are all wrong. Obama knows exactly what he is doing.
Obama is setting up a confrontation and he plans to win.
Obama is betting that he can force the GOP to make their proposed cuts, which he can blame them for, which he can truthfully say he does not support. Then he can attack the Republicans for making the cuts. He will appeal to the people who are suffering from the cuts, and strip away GOP support. They will be angry and mobilized.
Obama then plans to force the GOP into a funding crisis just as Clinton did. Obama plans to destroy the GOP reform wave of 2011 just as Clinton destroyed the GOP reform effort in 1995.
Obama’s team attempted to use the Tucson massacre in the same fashion that Clinton used the Oklahoma City bombings, to discredit the GOP. Obama is acutely aware of the Clinton playbook. This is another re-run.
If Obama wins, then the GOP / Tea Party effort is over and the Democrats have won the whole ball game. Obama gets reelected, the GOP is finished as a political party, and we have a mess for some number of years while a new party forms. But odds are it will be too late by then. A majority of people will be dependent on the Government.
It is that serious. Obama’s brazen, no-cuts budget proposal is not a sign of weakness.
It is a bold chess move that demands a strong response.
Obama has chosen to make this budget the big confrontation. This is the decisive political moment. Obama is prepping the battlefield.
Will the GOP win, lose, fold, get clobbered and not know what happened? Or will they call Obama out, see him and raise him, and make their case to the American people? Do the American people really care about the fiscal insanity and national bankruptcy? Or will the people who personally lose from the budget cuts have all the energy and outrage? Does the GOP have the courage to push ahead, no matter what?
Lenin said there are decades where nothing happens, then there are weeks where decades happen. We are heading into months where decades are going to happen.
UPDATE: Instapundit responds: “It’s not 1995 anymore, though.” Yes. True. I agree. It is better now. But, is it better enough? Boehner is not an eccentric visionary like Gingrich, and I cannot see him and McConnell getting punked by Obama the way Clinton did to Gingrich. Obama is not nearly as good as Clinton. The GOP members are, I think, much wiser and more realistic than the hopeful but ultimately naive class of 1994. The new crew is committed to reform, and they have the example of 1995 in front of them. May they learn the right tactical lessons. Plus, things are just way worse now. There is more at stake.
Interesting times, baby.
UPDATE II: Powerline gets it:
Obama’s game is transparent, isn’t it? He is playing a game of chicken. He puts forward a series of proposals that he knows are more or less insane; but he also believes that Republicans will come to his rescue. They, not being wholly irresponsible, will come up with plans to reform entitlements–like, for example, the Ryan Roadmap. Ultimately, some combination of those plans will be implemented because the alternative is the collapse, not just of the government of the United States, but of the country itself. But Obama thinks the GOP’s reforms will be unpopular, and he will be able to demagogue them, thus having his cake and eating it too. Is that leadership? Of course not. But it is the very essence of Barack Obama.
(Emphasis added.) Yes. That’s it. That’s the trap.
Let’s see the GOP, and the Tea Party, and everyone else who wants this mess really fixed work this problem, avoid the trap, and turn the table on Obama and his allies.
Thinking caps on, team.
UPDATE III: Good pushback in the comments. Message: 1995 =/= 2011. OK. Groovy. So, let’s see a good outcome here. It is doable.
UPDATE IV: Cool: Stanley Kurtz link, mostly agreeing with me. He says my “vision of permanent Republican meltdown is overdrawn.” Maybe so. But I would rather the GOP and the Tea Party overestimate the hazard of the coming confrontation with Obama than not be aware it exists, as seemed to be the case in the initial round of responses to Obama’s budget proposal. Obama’s budget is not a failure of leadership, or a lack of imagination, or something that happened in a fit of absence of mind. It is a deliberate political play, with a goal of creating useful issues for 2012, breaking up and defeating the GOP opposition, reversing 2010, getting reelected, and continuing to expand the power and scope of government. Will it work? I hope not. But if we take it seriously for what it is, the odds of it working are greatly reduced. (I very much want to read Kurtz’s book Radical-in-Chief, but right now the pile of books in front of it is ceiling-high.)
UPDATE V: Good post from Keith Hennessey (via/Instapundit). Hennessey says:
The President is choosing both a policy path and a campaign strategy. He is betting that having no proposal to address the looming fiscal crisis is better for his reelection prospects than having one.
This is exactly right. Hennessey also says:
The President has made his strategic choice: we are headed toward a two year fiscal stalemate in a newly balanced Washington.
But this is wrong. It will not be a stalemate. It will be an open conflict. 1995 was not a stalemate, it was a duel, and Gingrich and the GOP lost. The GOP in 2011 will have to propose cuts, and Obama is going to attack them for each and every one, and blame them for every bit of hardship that any cuts impose on anyone. The President is betting that Mancur Olson is right, and that focused opposition will defeat inchoate and widespread public interest, as usual. Is 2011 “different”? Is it “different” enough? Cue portentious music: On that question turns the fate of our Republic.