Writing at The Week, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry once again demonstrates his Gallic flair, his savoir faire, and his utter and abysmal ignorance of American political realities. His theme this time is how a new Speaker of the House can “unite the GOP and beat Obama,” and he begins by recommending (in bold lettering) that the GOP force a shutdown of the federal government:
1. Demand that Planned Parenthood be defunded
Republicans have maxed out their temper tantrum credit. But this issue is actually important. In my eyes, and those of millions of other pro-life conservatives, Planned Parenthood is a terrible organization. We have a political opportunity to save countless lives by crippling it. The next speaker absolutely should be willing to shut down the government over this issue.
M. Gobry then suggests that when Republicans defund Planned Parenthood they craftily “throw in a sweetener”: “tax credits for companies that offer maternity leave to draw pro-life Democrats in and give some cover for the inevitable "war on women" attacks.” Brilliant! Women who can no longer access health services through Planned Parenthood--including contraception--will get maternity leave instead! "Sorry about that unplanned and unwanted pregnancy, but hey, take a few weeks off on us!"
PEG has also given a good deal of thought to President Obama’s political calculations:
At this point in his presidency, Barack Obama is interested in cementing his legacy. It might sound impossible to imagine him signing a bill to defund Planned Parenthood — but there are surely some things for which he would make this concession. For example: allowing the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill to go up for a vote in the House; backing a bipartisan criminal justice reform plan, like Tea Party Sen. Mike Lee's (there are others in the House); agreeing to reinstate the so-called Hastert Rule, which automatically raises the debt ceiling in order to avoid further debt ceiling showdowns. All of these happen to be good policy. And they also might be enough to get Obama to (very reluctantly) defund Planned Parenthood. This is how divided government works: Both sides make tradeoffs.
Why in the world M. Gobry thinks that House Republicans would do any of this is beyond me. The Tea Party/Freedom Caucus’ unwillingness to budge or to engage in the usual legislative horse trading is precisely what has exasperated the House leadership; every one of the items M. Gobry suggests using as leverage has already been stonewalled by the right-wing zealots in the House who do not believe in compromise or trade-offs.
(I should note in passing M. Gobry’s clever use of the generic “she” in his speculation about the next Speaker—e.g. “She would also change the conversation in the Republican presidential race by making it so that the Republican Party, again, has an agenda that candidates would have to define themselves for or against.” Even someone as unfamiliar with political reality as M. Gobry must know that there is not a woman within hailing distance of the GOP House leadership.)
PEG advises the GOP House leadership to “pass popular stuff that Obama won’t sign,” ignoring the fact that Obama won’t have to sign any of it because none of it will pass the Senate over Democratic opposition. He also urges the GOP to “be on offense from the center for once,” this time ignoring the fact that there is no “center” to today’s GOP—there is right, hard right, and harder right, and no one in the party has the inclination, much less the nerve, to tack toward the center.
My favorite of M. Gobry’s recommendations is this:
Get some achievements under your belt. Show you can govern. Get everyone on board. No matter how small. Something that can build goodwill. The ideas are out there. Even things as small-bore as legalizing raw milk, or slightly improving border security, or doing an efficiency audit of the U.S. government, or etching the word "JOBS" in bright lights on the Congress dome.
Or name some buildings after Ronald Reagan, or pass a resolution in favor of motherhood, or install a chapel in the Capitol dedicated to Our Lady of the Zygote.
To summarize: Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry believes that the next Speaker of the House, whoever she is, should assemble her Republican caucus and say: “Let’s show that we can govern. Let’s remember that divided government requires compromises and trade-offs. And let’s start by shutting down the government!”
M. Gobry knows as much about American politics as I do about Bulgarian folk dancing: which is to say, Il ne sait rien…