The U.S. government shutdown has been a battle of optics from the onset, and that doesn’t figure to change any time soon.
On Wednesday, a day after Democrats emphasized how harmful the shutdown was because, among other things, it will impact kids with cancer – Republicans struck back. Essentially, they took that talking point and put it to work for themselves by proposing to fund the part of the government that covers cancer research for children. This would come in the form of a mini bill, something that wouldn’t re-open the government for business, but would allow the parts of it that everyone enjoys to operate.
The GOP looked at it like this: If the Dems said yes, people would hate the shutdown a little less. If the Dems said no, then all of a sudden liberals hate kids with cancer.
And that’s how Harry Reid found himself in this exchange, as transcribed by the Atlantic Wire:
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DANA BASH: You all talked about children with cancer unable to go to clinical trials. The House is presumably going to pass a bill that funds at least the NIH. Given what you've said, will you at least pass that? And if not, aren't you playing the same political games that Republicans are?
HARRY REID: Listen, Sen. Durbin explained that very well, and he did it here, did it on the floor earlier, as did Sen. Schumer. What right did they have to pick and choose what part of government is going to be funded? It's obvious what's going on here. You talk about reckless and irresponsible. Wow. What this is all about is Obamacare. They are obsessed. I don't know what other word I can use. They're obsessed with this Obamacare thing. It's working now and it will continue to work and people will love it more than they do now by far. So they have no right to pick and choose.
BASH: But if you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn't you do it?
CHUCK SCHUMER: Why put one against the other?
REID: Why would we want to do that? I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force base that are sitting home. They have a few problems of their own. This is -- to have someone of your intelligence to suggest such a thing maybe means you're irresponsible and reckless --
BASH: I'm just asking a question.
Naturally, on Thursday, Bill O’Reilly and others condemned Reid for being a ‘cold-hearted fanatic’ and hating kids with cancer.
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What’s the lesson here? Well, it’s that when your primary objective is PR victories as opposed to a genuine presentation of facts, you’re susceptible to the other side getting PR wins over you. The Democrats are emphasizing that kids with cancer are suffering because of the shutdown, and understating the fact that the shutdown also reveals how many government employees are not essential. It’s a PR game.
The Republicans are no better. They brought this shutdown on because they didn’t want to fund Obamacare. Now, after the shutdown has started, they say that they’re willing to fund it – so long as people can opt out if they want to and government workers don’t get an exception. That’s great. But where was this compromise before the threat of a shutdown? Why was this compromise only presented after the nation had been taken hostage?
Both sides are playing games here, and anyone who calls ‘false equivalency’ on that is too much of an ideologue to see their own bias.