Government Shutdown Courtesy Of The Republicans

It wasn’t supposed to go this way. The Republicans’ latest maneuver appears to be a complete failure – we are headed for a government shutdown, and fast.

It appears that the Republicans, and certainly Senator Ted Cruz, have become the President’s greatest allies. They make him look reasonable and compassionate against a backdrop of Republican partisanship and aggression.

This couldn’t come at a better time for the President. His approval rating is down to 43 percent while 50 percent of Americans say they disapprove of his performance.

Gallup’s economic confidence index is at -22. Forty-nine percent of Americans disapprove of the way Obama is handling foreign policy. This comes as the President is facing unprecedented challenges in this arena with a diplomatic opening with Iran and efforts to remove chemical weapons from Syria.

The President has looked weak since he was reelected, both at home and abroad. His economic policies have not produced the recovery he promised. The middle class is not expanding. And we have bungled several endeavors in the Middle East, most recently being upstaged by Russian President Putin over Syria’s chemical weapons.

In light of all this, the only thing that is keeping Obama above water is Republican intransigence on the budget and the debt ceiling. Based on my experience in 1995 and 1996 advising President Bill Clinton, I am near certain that the fallout over the government shutdown will land on the shoulders of Republicans, not the President. And they will be blamed for the dysfunction and paralysis that we are seeing in Washington today.

Nevertheless, the Republicans have a chance at winning the Senate in 2014 and they remain on track to hold the House. What’s going on right now doesn’t change that, as of yet. But there can be no doubt that this isn’t a great time for the Republicans. Their approval rating is at 21 percent with 73 percent disapproving of the job they’re doing in Congress. And the party itself has never been so divided with factions and alliances sprouting up regularly.

Having learned so little from past battles over the debt ceiling and potential government shutdowns it looks like the Republicans could spend another term mired in the partisan clashes that have come to be their calling card.

It is important to remember that the Republicans are not wrong when they say that ObamaCare isn’t what the American people want. Only 39 percent approve of the health care law with 51 percent opposing it. Delaying the individual mandate wouldn’t be unpopular.

The major mistake the Republicans have made is in tying the defunding of ObamaCare to the functioning of the government – these are, and should remain, distinct issues. Additionally, they have ultimately tied it to the debt ceiling, another matter that should remain distinct.

As reports of uneasy financial markets begin to trickle in as the potential government shutdown comes, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Republicans will be held solely responsible for this instability and, certainly, the paralysis in Washington.

This leaves the President with an opportunity to change perception of him, and his administration, at a time when he hasn’t been showing the leadership the American public and, indeed, Congress has needed to see from him. And he’s doing just that as the Republicans continue to grind away at what appears to be a losing battle – the President is now the voice of reason and the Republicans look irrational, bitter and partisan.

I see no reason why the President would stop demonizing the Republican party – and he shouldn’t. They’ve all but handed him a win in a political fight that he was otherwise destined to lose.