Skip to comments.ĎItís Hard to See How Boehner Gets Out of Thisí: Dick Armey on the Shutdown (GOP Will Lose)
Posted on 10/11/2013 4:00:43 PM PDT by nickcarraway
Former U.S. Representative Dick Armey speaks at "Tea Party" a panel discussion at the 2010 New Yorker Festival at DGA Theater on October 2, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images the New Yorker) *** Local Caption *** Dick Armey
Former Texas congressman Dick Armey knows from shutdowns. A chief author of the "Contract with America" and a hardline general in the Gingrich Revolution, Armey was House majority leader when the Republicans faced off against Bill Clinton in late 1995, insisting they would only fund government if the president agreed to a balanced budget in seven years. In early January 1996, under pressure from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole, the House Republicans agreed to abandon their demands and lift the shutdown.
Earlier this week, we called Armey and former Speaker Newt Gingrich to get their perspective on the current shutdown and its parallels to their own standoff with a Democratic president. (Gingrich-era House Majority Whip Tom DeLay did not respond to our interview request.) Armey, now retired on his north Texas ranch (with a hefty FreedomWorks severance package), shared his thoughts on Clinton ("a jolly fellow well met"), Gingrich ("like Ado Annie from Oklahoma!"), and what John Boehner should do ("If youre going to be in command, damn it, then you got to command."). Take me back to 1995. Why did Republican leadership think a government shutdown would be an effective tactic?
We had reason to believe we might be able to pull it off. Remember, we had had a lot of success that year. We were riding pretty high after the 100 days, and we felt that we were going to bring the Democrats to heel on our budget numbers. Newt insisted that presidents get blamed for shutdowns and that therefore we ought to develop a strategy that would take us to a shutdown. My position was that Republicans get blamed for shutdowns, because its incongruous to the public to think that the Democrats who they perceive as people who love the government would shut down the government. But Newt was just certain that he would outwit Clinton.
And he was wrong
I think the fundamental miscalculation of 95 was that we did not understand Clinton. Clinton was no sissy. He was not going to cave. And the public pressure wasnt falling on Clinton; it was falling on us. The president was advantaged by being the guy who was trying so hard and being so accommodating to get through this against the stubborn and unreasonable Republicans. Tom DeLay always argued we were winning. If we were winning, I never saw it. We were getting the tar beat out of us.
At times during the shutdowns, Gingrich was perceived as being pushed around by his hard-line base. Did you see it that way?
The speaker, the budget chairman, and the whip were the principal driving forces behind the shutdown, and Newt shared the whole Well show them whos in charge around here attitude. But let me walk you through the numbers. Being reelected as speaker means you have to please a majority of your majority. The majority of his majority was the Well fight on to the death, win or lose, hard-nosed Republicans from the 94 freshmen class. And, frankly, Boehner has the same thing same set of attitudes. Now, the problem is we also had that group that was the minority of the majority but it was also with the majority of the body.
So you had those people coming to us and saying, Youre letting these cranky, not-so-thoughtful people on your extreme right drive you. Youre letting the tail wag the dog! And then we would hear from the majority of our majority, and it was, Youre listening to this small gang of moderates. Youre letting the tail wag the dog! Id go home and tell my wife, I must be a two-tailed dog, because they say Im being wagged from both ends.
So how did Newt come around to admitting defeat?
I was meeting with Newt and Bob Dole, and as I was walking out the door to go home, I heard Dole say, Newt, will you stay here? I want to talk to you. The next day I got a call from Newt, and he said, Well, Dick, Bob Dole and I have agreed were going to end this. I think Dole said, Look, its just getting to be too miserable a process, were not behaving well, so lets just get done with it. Newt was a little bit like Ado Annie from Oklahoma! We always used to say, If you want to know what Newts position is, check and see who was the last one in the room with him.
Did the freshmen cry bloody murder?
It was a pretty bitter business. When Newt went before the conference, I remember being stunned when he said, Its immoral to shut down the government. Damn it, it was his idea from the get-go!
And do you see many of the same dynamics in this shutdown?
There wasnt that big ideological component back in 95. Clinton was fundamentally a fiscal conservative, so more than anybody was ever willing to acknowledge, the goal of a balanced budget was a goal shared by Clinton in the first place. This fight now isnt about the budget, its an ideological war. Nobody can surrender in this war, and their positions are mutually exclusive. Obamacare is the 50-year dream of the national Democrat party finally achieved. Everybody knew the Democrats were not going to take a bill to defund it. Boehner knew that, but he let himself get pushed into a shutdown anyway.
Is he really so afraid of the tea party?
Tea party, shmee party. Its the Republican Study Committee, and theyve been around since long before there was ever a tea party. But I still wonder: How does a guy like Ted Cruz, whos relatively new in town, who nobody knows, who hasnt even unpacked his bags, drive this whole process? Its hard to see how Boehner gets himself out of this. My personal belief is his best model is Tip ONeill. Tip ONeill would have just said, Look, Im in charge here, you can take it or not. I think Johns too worried about his speakership. If youre going to be in command, damn it, then you got to command.
So how will it end?
I will predict this: When they agree on a spending bill, it will speak not at all to Obamacare and it will be at budgetary numbers higher than the sequestration level. And so in the end, the Republican conference will lose ground on the budget, they will lose ground on health care, they will lose ground politically, and theyll be in a worse position than where Boehner had them going into this process. And theyll all blame Boehner, bless his heart.
Isn’t Dick Armey the guy who led the RINO charge to take over Freedom Works until he was eventually thwarted?
The only losing strategy is not fighting.
Even if you lose a good battle you will energize your base that has been depressed from nothing but surrender for the past 5 years.
The House of Representatives gets out of this by insisting that the Constitution gives them the power to initiate any spending bill and refusing to do so because ObamaCare breaks the bank, is unfair, targets Christians, and deals with the Baby Boomers via death panels.
Drive those points home.
Well, we know one thing the old guys (and girls) all think that extrapolating the past into the present should prevail
a little blood and guts on the Senate floor would look nice
He jumped in front of the Tea Party and yelled “Follow me!”
According to Armey, their shutdown was just for the hell of it. And they folded when “I’m Bob Dole, damn it!” told them he’d fix everything when he got elected president.
fortunately Armey is out of there now
republicans may blow this but they have a winning hand.
if they can get to the debt limit, the US government moves immediately to a balanced budget - and all done with spending cuts !
that’s what all the republicans have claimed they wanted for years. unfortunately, the beltway repub leadership and rinos do not want to cut spending, they just want to pretend to want to cut spending, pretend to be against obamacare... etc
we have one ace in the hole - obama’s arrogance, vanity and monumental self regard
everytime the leadership and rinos are about to cave, they meet with obama and he infuriates them and strengthens their spines - at least for a while
for conservatives to win this thing, they have to depend on obama behaving like an arrogant jack-ass, fortunately, it may happen !
Love reading inside-baseball stuff like this (mechanics & strategy w/ the ‘95 shutdown).
However, I now put Armey firmly in the establishment camp after reading more about the failed coup he led against Freedom Works. Took an 8 MUSD ransom to get him out.
JB has already caved. It’s over. Nothing like leaving soldiers out on the battlefield with their dicks in their hands for pumping up moral, eh?
Thanks for nuthin Penis Battalion.
They are going to blame Boehner because he is going to retire.
I’d rather fight and lose than never fight at all.
Every day that the fed is shutdown is a good day.
And doing what Dole wanted was the winning strategy ?
Amusing, if true.
It’s already over.
Our side caves.
Next the employer class and the political donor class will saddle us with 20 million criminal immigrants to keep the labor supply high while driving down wages for the native population.
Supply and demand...culture be damned.
The tree needs watering....IMHO
dick armey is a progressive slimeball dimpublican.
He should retire because millions of us will donate to retire him.