Washington at war: Political animosity reaches new, personal level
With no end in sight for the government shutdown, the partisan animosity has gotten unusually bitter and personal, even for Washington. Americans are angry too.
Everybody knows that “politics ain’t beanbag,” as American humorist Finley Peter Dunne’s “Mr. Dooley” put it more than a century ago.Skip to next paragraph
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But the partisan animosity over the government shutdown has gotten unusually bitter and personal, even for Washington.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is quoted calling House Speaker John Boehner “a coward.” Mr. Boehner’s reported characterization of Democratic leaders in Congress – questioning the circumstances of their birth, to put it politely – is no less insulting.
In a piece about Reid, Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell headlined “Bad blood: Four feuding leaders,” Politico reports that “the relationship between the nation’s top political leaders is now brimming with acrimony, distrust, and pettiness at a perilous time for the country’s economy.”
“But the personal animus extends beyond the leaders,” this report notes. “Along with their bosses, aides to Boehner and Reid are in an undeclared war and neither is refusing to budge an inch.”
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Many long wistfully for the days when President Ronald Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill could fight hard over policy by day and entertain each other with stories in the evening. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, a former top aide to Rep. O’Neill, writes about this in his new book “Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked.”
That began to change, political analysts note, when former Rep. Newt Gingrich assumed House leadership in 1995.
"Newt was a 'take no prisoners' kind of Speaker," former GOP congressional staff member John Lawing told Capitol Hill Blue, a non-partisan political web site. "For him everything was personal and partisan."
Today, partisan organizations on both sides are joining the fray.
The Tea Party Express is quoting the late General Douglas MacArthur – "It is fatal to enter a war without the will to win it" – in its latest fund-raising pitch.
A Democratic super PAC television ad to be broadcast during the Cincinnati Bengals-New England Patriots football game Sunday features a close-up of a baby crying, with a narrator saying, "Speaker John Boehner didn't get his way on shutting down health care reform. So, he's shut down the government and hurt the economy."
The ad, sponsored by House Majority PAC will be airing in Boehner's district, which includes rural and suburban areas around Cincinnati, the Huffington Post reports.
The sharp-edged bickering continued Saturday with the regularly-scheduled weekly radio addresses by President Obama and the GOP-designated spokesman for this week.
As he has since the shutdown began Tuesday, Obama puts the responsibility for “this farce” squarely on Republicans, specifically Boehner.
“There’s only one way out of this reckless and damaging shutdown: pass a budget that funds our government, with no partisan strings attached,” Obama said Saturday. “The Senate has already done this. And there are enough Republican and Democratic votes in the House of Representatives willing to do the same, and end this shutdown immediately. But the far right of the Republican Party won’t let Speaker John Boehner give that bill a yes-or-no vote.”
“Take that vote. Stop this farce. End this shutdown now,” he said.