[Editor’s note: A look back at a post I wrote in 2013….]
New York Times Op-Ed columnist Gail Collins does not mince words:
Right now, the show horses of the United States Senate are Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida. All preparing for a 2016 presidential bid. All making visits to Iowa. They’re the new faces of the Republican Party. Really, really new. The three of them have an average age of 45 and an average tenure in Washington of 1.9 years.
Whatever happened to learning one job before moving to the next step?
Republicans are alarmed, as the editorial notes:
And all three are currently in the news for their efforts to get Republicans to promise not to vote to fund the government this fall unless the president cancels Obamacare.
“I think it’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,” said Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, speaking on behalf of a large number of Republicans who regard the idea of shutting down the government with horror and who are never going to be mentioned in a Quinnipiac presidential poll.
For those who were not paying attention in 1995 when Republicans shut down the government, it wasn’t pretty. Google it. Or listen to the voices of experiences who have been there and done that, like Senator Saxby Chambliss, 69. On Wednesday’s Morning Joe on MSNBC, Chambliss gave a dire reminder.
“We’ve been down that road,” he said. “We shut down the government …and we got our butts kicked over shutting down the government.”
That’s an understatement. It took years to regain the confidence of the American people who blamed Republicans for the shutdown. Indeed, Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough was a Florida Congressman during the 1995 shutdown. He learned from that experience and called the current threat “one of the stupidest arguments he’s heard in two decades”:
“We’ve got a president that’s gonna celebrate Republicans making the same mistake back when we shut down the government and basically re-elected Bill Clinton,” Scarborough said.
The new breed of Republicans could learn from the experience and wisdom of those who have walked before them. But listening to Cruz, that doesn’t seem likely:
“The sort of cocktail chatter wisdom that ‘Oh, the shutdown was a disaster for Republicans’ is not borne out by the data,” Cruz said.
Meanwhile, the other side of the political aisle is watching this unfold, as Collins writes:
The Democrats are sort of horrified and sort of enthralled by the whole drama.
“Give a call to Newt Gingrich. He’ll return your phone calls. Ask him how it worked,” suggested Majority Leader Harry Reid.
It brings to mind American philosopher George Santayana’s much-quoted belief, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”