WASHINGTON – All things considered, Valerie Jarrett seems unflappable.
Jarrett, President Obama’s senior adviser and the woman who an administration source once told The New York Times was “the single, most influential person in the Obama White House,” recently joined some of my columnist colleagues and me for dinner in the nation’s capital.
Even though she didn’t discuss it, I couldn’t help but imagine how tough Jarrett’s job must be these days.
She does, after all, have to help the president work with a Congress that is so threatened by him and the demographic future that he represents that it would rather drag this country down if it means keeping it mired in the past.
No matter if that past holds hard lessons even for them.
Each day, the likelihood that the Republican-controlled House will cause the government to shut down on Oct. 1, grows. It is refusing to approve a federal spending bill unless the White House caves to their demands to strip Obamacare funding from it.
To them, it matters not that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land now, nor that the highest court in the land upheld its constitutionality, nor that Obama won, and they lost, on that issue.
They’d rather keep up their tantrum to stop Obama’s signature piece of legislature; they’d rather bang their heads bloody against the floor than allow the president to get the credit for attempting to fix a health care system that is, at least by the standards of most of the developed world, broken.
Also worsening the situation is the fact that these intransigent Republicans don’t care whether a shutdown causes federal workers to be furloughed, or military checks to be delayed, or our already lackluster economic recovery to languish even more.
Nor does it matter to them that a shutdown can wind up costing the taxpayers they claim to have such fealty to; it will cost millions to restart federal functions once the standoff is resolved. Or that, according to the Congressional Research Service, the health care act will likely still be implemented even in the event of a shutdown.
These folks don’t hew to facts or practicality – or to their own history.
When the government shut down for 21 days in 1995 because President Bill Clinton wouldn’t acquiesce to the GOP’s version of a balanced budget, the public didn’t take too kindly to it. It led to Clinton winning re-election by a landslide in 1996, and it literally ended House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s so-called Republican revolution.
Even Sen. John McCain, Obama’s opponent in the 2008 election and one of his most ardent critics, remembers what a fiasco that shutdown turned out to be for the GOP back then – and has urged the Tea Party hardliners against repeating that disastrous history.
But they aren’t listening to him. All they’re listening to is their own intransience and intolerance.
That not only speaks to how tough Jarrett’s job must be, or how tough Obama’s job continues to be, but the troubled future that we face with this Congress.
Think about it.
If Tea Party-backed Republicans are so obsessed with gutting Obamacare that they’re willing to risk their own party going down in flames, what does that say about how they feel about the fate of the entire country?
What does it say when a faction of the GOP cares more about emasculating Obama – a president who represents the dreams and needs of a nation that is becoming blacker and browner and more progressive – than about helping the country move forward?
It says to me that they’re fanatics, not patriots – because the America they want is one in which Obama is as powerless and as voiceless as the people whose access to the polls many of them are now trying to restrict.
But as the saying goes, if a person digs a grave for his enemy, he should dig one for himself, too. And if history is any indication, then House Republicans ought to start stocking up on shovels.
Not to throw dirt over the president, but over themselves.
Tonyaa Weathersbee is an award-winning columnist based in Jacksonville, Fla. Follow her @tonyaajw. Or like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonyaajweathersbee.