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Wasted Weeks: Media portray budget deal as Pyrrhic victory

 

That sound you hear is America dodging a bullet.

Until next time, that is.

The media love Washington showdowns, and it’s hard to imagine a more monumental one than flirting with Thursday’s default deadline.

When the Senate’s septuagenarian leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell hammered out a short-term budget and debt ceiling extension, and John Boehner signaled he would bring it to the House floor, cable news got ready to turn off its countdown clocks.

And the Senate’s 81-18 approval Wednesday night broke the fever, and cleared the way for the government to reopen.

While there was undoubtedly a sigh of relief, global calamity averted and all that, there is a media consensus that the whole self-inflicted crisis basically accomplished squat. And that Republicans were largely, but not exclusively, to blame.

By reopening the government through January and lifting the debt limit through February, Congress resolved none of the major budget issues dividing the parties and basically was forced to punt.

Ted Cruz continues to grab the media spotlight, even after his crusade to defund ObamaCare utterly failed and turned much of his party against him. He told reporters that he opposes the deal but that there was no point in delaying it. The Cruz strategy yielded virtually nothing but did turn the freshman senator into a household name, including a spread in People magazine.

The day began with an air of surrender. Everything the Republicans tried had failed, and even most of their allies in the Fourth Estate were telling them it was time to move on.

A strategy that had brought the country to the brink of default was playing out precisely the way its detractors had predicted. Once Boehner couldn’t get enough backing in his caucus to bring a bill to the House floor, the jig was up.

Republican lawmakers woke up to a scolding by the Wall Street Journal editorial page, a conservative bastion.

Many GOP conservatives “picked a goal they couldn't achieve in trying to defund ObamaCare from one House of Congress, and then they picked a means they couldn't sustain politically by pursuing a long government shutdown and threatening to blow through the debt limit,” it says.

“President Obama called their bluff, no doubt in part to blame the disruption on the GOP and further tarnish the party's public image,” it continues. “Now the most Republicans will get out of this is lower public approval and a chance to negotiate with Mr. Obama again before the next debt-limit deadline…At least that's better than getting the blame for whatever happens if Treasury stops sending out Social Security checks in order to prioritize debt repayments…Republicans can best help their cause now by getting this over with and moving on to fight more intelligently another day.”

That had to sting. And it’s hard to argue with this sentence in the New York Times after the Senate compromise was reached.

“The deal, with the government shutdown in its third week, yielded virtually no concessions to the Republicans, other than some minor tightening of income verifications for people obtaining subsidized insurance under the new health care law,” the Times says.

National Review notes that anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist told reporters that the defunding brigade should “apologize.”

“It’d be a good idea if they stopped referring to other Republicans as Hitler appeasers because they opposed the strategy they put forward which failed,” Norquist is quoted as saying. “I think if you make a mistake as big as what they did, you owe your fellow senators and congressmen a big apology — and your constituents, as well, because nothing they did advanced the cause of repealing or dismantling ObamaCare…They hurt the conservative movement, they hurt people’s health care, they hurt the country’s economic situation and they hurt the Republican Party.” 

Red State’s Eric Erickson takes the opposite tack, declaring political war on the Republican establishment.

“The GOP intends to fully fund ObamaCare and let Barack Obama have all the power to exempt his friends and delay portions for patrons of his campaign,” he writes. "So I intend to fully fund Heritage Action for America and the Senate Conservatives Fund. The latest Pew poll shows that more Americans want their own member of Congress thrown out of office than at any time in recent memory.

“We only need a few good small businessmen and women to stand up and challenge these Republicans who are caving. If they refuse to fight for us, we must fight them. It is the only way we will finally be able to fight against ObamaCare. I am tired of funding Republicans who campaign against ObamaCare then refuse to fight. It’s time to find a new batch of Republicans to actually practice what the current crop preaches.”

But they did fight, didn’t they? They just lost.

Loyal to the Redskins

President Obama likes the idea, Dan Snyder doesn’t, and most fans are…indifferent? 

“A majority of D.C. residents say a change in the Washington Redskins’ name wouldn’t impact their loyalty to the team,” according to a new poll. “The survey commissioned by the Oneida Indian Nation, which has been pushing owner Dan Snyder to change a team name it considers offensive, found that 25 percent of Washington residents would be less of a fan if the name changed, while 18 percent would be more of a fan. But 55 percent said it would make no difference.”

A quarter would like the team less with a new name? In football-crazy Washington? I’ll take odds that they would come around.

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Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.