Slate’s headline: “Obama Won.”
Politico’s headline: “Obama Wins.”
The Huffington Post: “Extortionists Extinguished.”
That’s the media consensus, inflammatory language aside, after a 16-day partial government shutdown that brought us to the brink of default. The president wins and a badly battered Republican Party loses big time.
Liberal bias? Fox’s Dana Perino, who was George W. Bush’s spokesman, said, "On balance, if this was a battle, the Democrats definitely won.”
In the hits, runs, and, errors score-keeping that prevails inside the Beltway, this is undoubtedly true. Obama went into this showdown saying he wouldn’t negotiate, and the Ted Cruz wing was determined to defund or delay ObamaCare.
The strategy failed, the president got what he wanted with only a minor concession on the health care law, and the GOP plummeted in the polls.
In purely political terms, Obama is in better shape than he was a month ago, when he was seen as zig-zagging on Syria.
But what exactly did the president win?
The truth is he got a 90-day reprieve before the next budget showdown, and no progress on trimming spending or dealing with entitlements or the meat-ax approach of the sequester.The shutdown will end up costing billions and has eroded our international credibility.
So the cliché is true: the country lost. And if the Democrats took a lesser hit, they still took a hit.
Obama took a swipe at his critics yesterday, saying, “All of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists, and the bloggers, and the talking heads on radio, and the professional activists who profit from conflict.”
He didn’t name names, but you can guess who he had in mind. Does that include liberal bloggers and radio hosts?
Some pundits also saw this as an in-your-face statement:
“You don't like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Push to change it. But don't break it.”
Not me. Obama has said versions of this before, such as when he noted that his health care law was a central issue in the 2012 campaign and Mitt Romney lost.
Those who want to change or junk ObamaCare need to take control of the Senate and/or the White House to do so. Elections matter.
Wall Street Journal columnist Dan Henninger certainly isn’t cutting the GOP any slack.
“From the House to the Senate, the Republicans look dazed and confused," Henninger writes. "Three weeks ago, Ted Cruz stood in the Senate chamber for nearly a day, looking like a hero. Today, with the GOP brand in a vertical dive, he looks like a Bozo balloon.”
Politico scrutinizes the GOP blame game.
“Within Republican circles…there’s widespread disagreement about exactly what lesson the party might stand to learn," the story reads. "If there’s general consensus that the party got burned, there are already competing narratives on the right about whose hand it was that touched the burner."
Politico's first theory is "Ted Cruz preened his way into a massacre." The second theory is "Leadership wimped out and made everything worse.”
The third theory might be called the kamikaze approach.
“The problem, some Republicans argue, is not merely that Ted Cruz is a showboat or that outside groups demand confrontation without a plan to win," the story says. "It’s also that there’s a gang of several dozen House members who simply do not care about accomplishing anything on policy. They don’t choose a hill to fight on based on where they think they can win; they just want to fight.”
We may see more of that next time.
RedState’s Erick Erickson, a Fox contributor, has turned on the party’s leadership with a vengeance.
“Those of us who were in this fight against ObamaCare, have been quite open that we knew there were side benefits," Erickson writes. "This fight would expose conservative activists to the frauds they have funded…Men like Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, and others have preached a great sermon against ObamaCare, but now conservatives who supported them see that these men have refused to actually practice what they’ve been preaching. They’ve refused to stand and fight with the rest of us.”
Slate offers another way to look at Ted Cruz.
“In defeat, Cruz sounds insane to his detractors—and his claim that the country was rallying to his position are refuted by all reputable metrics," the story reads. "But Cruz can still take comfort from the president's victory. Like Cruz, Obama stood firm to a principle in defending his health care plan despite public disapproval. Of course, Cruz's gambit was far more unpopular—among both his colleagues and the general public—but that is unlikely to sway the junior Texas senator because triumphant leadership can often appear to be on the verge of certain doom moments before it succeeds. The best proof of this also comes from Obama's leadership playbook: See Syria gambit.
“It didn’t matter that Cruz’s campaign was so clearly doomed you could tell from outer space. For men of ambition and deeply held views, there is little to distinguish between success and total failure when you are in the thick of the fight, guided only by the righteousness of your cause.”
Whether he was principled or reckless, Cruz now has the media spotlight, and he intends to keep it.
Piers Not Packing?
Jim Romenesko picks up some Vanity Fair comments by CNN’s Piers Morgan, who says he’s sticking around despite chatter to the contrary.
“The rumors start because some mad blogger – on a blog site I’d never heard of – blogs ‘Morgan Facing Axe, Katie Couric Coming In’ – or whatever the name it is that week – and the reality is, I’d literally the month before had my fourth-year option picked up," he quotes Morgan as saying.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.