No, This Was Not a 'Good Fight'

Published Oct 18, 2013.

The issue: Government shutdown-debt ceiling debateOur view: Pointless brinkmanship laid bare all that’s wrong with D.C. politics

‘We fought the good fight, we just didn’t win,” House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday. The House had just voted to end the government shutdown and avert a default on the country’s debt payments.

No, Mr. Speaker, it was not a good fight.

It was a counterproductive fight that further polarized Congress, hurt American families and the economy as a whole, and embarrassed the United States in the eyes of the world. And everyone involved shares in the blame.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and tea party members of the GOP majority in the House led a doomed-from-the-start effort to use the budget and debt-ceiling deadlines to force defunding of the Affordable Care Act. President Obama’s indiscriminate use of his bully pulpit deprived House Speaker John Boehner of face-saving options in trying to build compromise within his fractured ranks. For his part, Boehner could have done more to rally more moderate Republicans behind efforts to end the gridlock.

We’d like to think, though, that this latest crisis will result not in endless finger pointing but in a shared commitment by Congress and the White House to start dealing with the national debt and other aspects of the government’s fiscal morass. Both political parties, several Congresses and both this administration and its predecessor share in the blame for these unaddressed problems.

As the bipartisan Concord Coalition notes, Congress and the president “avoided an immediate crisis but left intact all of the underlying fiscal disputes that have prevented agreement on a Fiscal Year 2014 budget and a comprehensive fiscal stability plan.”

Step one could be a shared commitment never to go near this particular cliff again.

Standard & Poor’s estimates that the current round of brinkmanship cost the economy $24 billion.

For all it accomplished, the fight that ended Wednesday could have been fought and ended a month ago. It was a fight that laid bare everything that’s wrong with politics in Washington. We will pray that cooler heads there — what few remain — can keep it from happening again.

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