Perhaps no (albeit brief) conversation sums up how the debacle of the last couple of weeks started than the following exchange that took place on October 2nd, according to Politico,
Obama: “John, What Happened”
Boehner: “I Got Overrun, That’s What Happened”
The question, prompted by the shutdown in the face of Boehner’s pledge to avoid it, set the scene for what Politico notes was a fiscal drama set on a series of complicated relationships – internicine Republican warfare and rare Democratic unity – as the House Republican confernce ran roughshod over Boehner.
House Speaker John Boehner just wanted to sneak out of the White House for a smoke.
But President Barack Obama pulled him aside for a grilling. Obama wanted to know why they were in the second day of a government shutdown that the speaker had repeatedly and publicly pledged to avoid.
“John, what happened?” Obama asked, according to people briefed on the Oct. 2 conversation.
“I got overrun, that’s what happened,” Boehner said.
It may be the most concise explanation of a chaotic, 16-day standoff that prompted the first government shutdown in nearly two decades and ended only hours before the world’s largest economy nearly exhausted its ability to pay the bills. The fiscal drama turned on a series of complicated relationships, internecine Republican warfare and rare Democratic unity.
The House Republican conference ran roughshod over Boehner, a 22-year veteran of Washington who started the fight demanding to strip funds for Obamacare but settled in the end for the reaffirmation of a minor provision already in the law.
Republicans never believed Obama would hold firm on his refusal to negotiate and Democrats would maintain an unusual level of cohesion — united by a visceral desire to put the tea party in its place and an almost mama grizzly instinct to protect Obamacare.
“It was not a smart play,” McConnell said Thursday of the GOP’s Obamacare strategy. “It had no chance of success.”
Obama and Reid stuck together, emerging as the political victors. Their hard-ball tactics were designed to “break the fever” brought on by the tea party, but it also helped drive the country to the edge of default.
Republicans cycled through every option possible during the three-week standoff to save face.
Politico’s account of the behind-the-scenes drama was drawn from dozens of interviews with key players in Congress and at the White House. The look back reveals how Republicans waged a fight on Obamacare that their leaders knew they would probably lose but pushed anyways because many in their ranks truly believed that Democrats, like they’ve done so often before, would fold — especially under the threat of an historic default on U.S. debt.
As the Speaker himself summed it up…
“We fought the good fight,” Boehner told WLW radio on Wednesday. “We just didn’t win.”