Just when you thought it was safe to skip reading daily newspapers altogether, The New York Times brought us an early Halloween present yesterday in explaining how the current federal government shutdown actually began: Back from the dead came Reagan administration sergeant-at-arms Edwin Meese III.
For those of you who don’t recall the checkered past of the former U.S. Attorney General, who resigned while under investigation by a special prosecutor, he’s a giant in the small world of conservative conspirators. A generation or two after Iran-Contra meant anything, he’s baaaaack.
Meese, one of former President Ronald Reagan’s closest and longest confidants, is among a small group of conservative leaders who set out a strategy in meetings last January to force the current government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act. Along with Charles and David Koch, and Michael A. Needham, head of the Heritage Foundation’s political action arm, Meese and the others set out a blueprint to modify or destroy the Obama administration’s health-reform law. According to the Times:
To many Americans, the shutdown came out of nowhere. But interviews with a wide array of conservatives show that the confrontation that precipitated the crisis was the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010 — waged by a galaxy of conservative groups with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known.
And so, putting aside the propriety of holding hostage the sick and indigent to gain political ends through a partial shutdown of the U.S. government, we apparently have a deliberate crisis. One that is as orchestrated as the Sunday TV talk shows.
Most crises are random, or even happenstance. Power outages, earthquakes, fires, corporate spying or sabotage, human error or greed. But in this case, a group of powerful and effective ideologues set out to precipitate a crisis for the American people.
Whether this is a full-blown crisis remains unclear. If the partial shutdown continues until the 17th, there could be an economic perfect storm over raising the nation’s debt ceiling. That’s a bit of a paper tiger, but we’ll save that for another day.
The point is, the partial government shutdown feels like a partial crisis.
Surely there are people adversely effected and in serious ways, from losing paychecks to inability to obtain care for serious medical or other life conditions. Then, just as assuredly, there are the inconvenienced — people who can’t get a passport renewed or complete a visa or job application.
But a week in, and with the Times story read, this feels like a massive manipulation by some very powerful conservative interests — which also goes to the heart of why House Speaker John A. Boehner won’t call a vote on refunding. It’s one thing to face the wrath of relatively junior Tea Party House members; it’s another to anger the Koch brothers, Ed Meese and the conservative establishment.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.