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Ex-GOP Insider Unloads: Blame “Neo-Confederate Insurrectionists” for Shutdown!

"I would take Boehner drunk over Cruz sober," former 28-year GOP staffer-turned-author Mike Lofgren says.

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What did the ’95-’96 shutdown look like from the inside?

It was terrible. It was just basically showing up — I was an exempt employee – just showing up for work and essentially waiting for the Great Oz to speak – namely, the speaker’s office.

Was there a sense that there was a plan? How ordered was it? How chaotic?

It was fairly chaotic. And finally cooler heads in the Senate like Bob Dole simply prevailed. I recall him saying in the well of the Senate, “Enough is enough,” and that’s how it ended. Essentially when the Republican Party divided over whether it was a good idea or not, rather than getting some sort of deal out of Clinton. And the [balanced] budget – well, that was a flood of revenue, basically a result of the dot-com bubble. It didn’t really have that much to do with discrete decisions made on Capitol Hill.

How much has the Republican Party changed since then?

In the ‘80s there was a willingness to negotiate, to compromise. The Beirut bombing killed 246 Marines, and it revealed a terrible lack of cooperation between the individual services. And Barry Goldwater and Bill Nichols, his Democratic counterpart in the House Armed Services Committee, got together and came up with the Joint Chiefs reform act. There was no partisanship about this. It was, “How do we fix this problem?”

If that’s changed, then why?

I think Gingrich’s speakership was an important way station on the road to our current circumstances. Because he very much polarized things. And his successor in function if not in title, [former House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay, took it a step closer with the  K Street Project and that sort of thing to really polarize matters.

But maybe in a broader social sense, I think it was the twin shocks of 9/11 and the 2008 meltdown that released a Frankenstein monster that was sort of sleeping in the American id — a certain totalitarian streak came out, an absolutist streak, good versus evil, where either you’re with us or against us, all of this kind of nonsense.

Plus, in 2008 you had the biggest crash since the Great Depression. And you know, we think we got through the Depression OK – well, we had Franklin Roosevelt. But you know other countries lurched to the right, violently. And there is a strain in the American society that seeks a kind of reactionary order to the chaos they see, that supports charlatans like Ted Cruz.

And although our American political system doesn’t offer much choice, with only two parties and gerrymandering, I think the people that elect these idiots bear a heavy burden of responsibility. They can’t say they’re against the government and then moan that they don’t get their check from the V.A.

What’s your view of how John Boehner’s approaching and preserving his speakership?

Well, he’s hanging on as best he can. I’ve always regarded him as a typical country club Republican — and for me, that’s not a criticism, that’s praise. He’s better than the zealots. I would take Boehner drunk over Cruz sober. But he’s in a hard position. Maybe he’ll have to give up his speakership in order to resolve this.

So what is the most likely ending to this?

Just based on intuition, I tend to think it’ll go on until sometime close to the default date, 17th of October. Because the government shutdown is a bad thing, but a default puts us into uncharted territory. When you screw around with the full faith and credit of the United States government, that’s serious. And I think [Obama] did a horrible job in 2011 taking the  invocation of the 14th Amendment off the table. The 14th Amendment states that the United States will pay its debt. This is an exigent circumstance, and he can do it. Just tell the Treasury to keep rolling over the T-bills. And he’s in his second term; what can they do to him?

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