Accuracy in Media

With the government shutdown over with not even one full workday affected, it’s instructive to look back at some of the projections. And it is rare to come across one that, in its glee to drive a stiletto into President Trump, ended up so colossally wrong.

A piece by David Faris in The Week deserves a special place in this pantheon.

“Well, good morning, America! I hope you aren’t planning any visits to national parks today (or if you are, it would be best if you don’t need to use the restroom). Because the suicidal Republican Congress couldn’t pass a short-term spending deal or deliver a broader compromise to their clueless president, the government has shut down for the first time since 2013,” Faris wrote.

“And if Democrats can stand their ground during what is likely to be a noisy, confusing, high-stakes and potentially lengthy standoff, they might just be able to force Republicans to slink back to the negotiating table and accept half of what was on offer last night.”

In fact, it was Democrats who slinked back to the table for far less than half of what was on offer when negotiations began. They got virtually nothing but a promise to take up immigration legislation before the next funding deadline on Feb. 8, at which point exactly no one expects the Democrats to be willing to risk yet another shutdown, and six years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which Republicans would have had to address at some point anyway.

Faris then trots out the line that became popular throughout this mini-debate – that Republicans endured a shutdown despite controlling both houses of Congress and the White House. The nation realized it takes 60 votes to call legislation off the calendar in the Senate and therefore, at worst, both parties were to blame for the dysfunction.

With the president’s party already fearing “an epic and richly deserved repudiation in November” and thus loath to preside over any more dysfunction, Democrats had maximum leverage, Faris said.

“The polling is unambiguous,” he wrote. “A Washington Post/ABC News poll released yesterday found that respondents would blame Republicans for the shutdown by a 20-point margin. The public is not buying the sad GOP spin that Democrats are willing to sacrifice CHIP for the DREAMers.”

The spin was that Democrats were taking the side over illegal immigrants against soldiers and other federal employees and the services they provide.

“Adding to the weight against the Dreamers were new polls showing that while voters back the Dreamer cause in general, they didn’t think it was right to shut down the government over it,” wrote Anna Maria Barry-Jester at Five Thirty-Eight, Nate Silver’s polling site.

Where before the Senate’s Gang of Eight floated a measure that would give amnesty to the 11 million people living here illegally already in exchange for beefing up border security and limiting visas, today, providing a path to citizenship for the 700,000 or so people from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program began to seem like a bridge too far.

The shutdown represented not only dysfunction, bad faith and incompetence by congressional Republicans, Faris said, but also provided “fresh evidence that the party would be basically incapable of governing the country even if their margins in both chambers were substantially increased.

“Whose genius idea was it to play dress-up hostage crisis with two of the most popular programs in the country anyway? How did they think it was going to end?”

Indeed, it is hard to imagine even many Republicans thought this would turn out as well as it did – with Minority Leader Charles Schumer ordering fellow senators to capitulate and the activist Democrat base mad at its own representatives in Congress.

“The immigration and liberal groups that pushed Democrats into a government shutdown blasted the party for caving Monday, saying lawmakers bungled the fight, gave up too early and walked away without any substantive gains,” reported the Washington Times.

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