Less than a month after engineering a deeply unpopular government shutdown in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to derail the Affordable Care Act, Republicans are already trying to shift the blame.
Various right-wing media outlets are picking up the claim that President Barack Obama deliberately lured Republicans into a trap planned by his senior advisor Valerie Jarrett.
The claim originates with author Ed Klein, who wrote a provocative and widely criticized biography of Obama called The Amateur, in addition to The Truth About Hillary, a similarly received book on the Clintons.
“(Jarrett) convinced the president that a government shutdown and default offered a great opportunity to demonize the Republicans and help the Democrats win back a majority in the House of Representatives in 2014,” Klein told The New York Post.
Klein said Jarrett told the president that voters would blame Republicans for the shutdown and “devised the no-negotiating strategy” that ultimately forced the GOP to end the 16-day shutdown with Obamacare still intact and to extend the federal government’s borrowing power to avert debt default.
“Valerie also came with the idea of using the words ‘hostage’, and ‘ransom’ and ‘terrorists’ against the Republicans,” Klein said.
Those tactics, along with Republican antics before and after the shutdown began Oct. 1, drove the GOP’s favorability ratings to record lows for any political party.
Recent polls suggest voters overwhelmingly blame Republicans for the shutdown and disapprove of the GOP’s handling of negotiations over the federal budget -- and they’re not wrong in assessing blame.
The plan to tie funding for the president’s signature health care law to a resolution to fund the federal government had been hatched by conservative lawmakers, activists and business leaders over a period of months.
And Republican threats to shut down the government dominated congressional coverage for weeks prior to the start of a new fiscal year on Oct. 1.
But enforcement of one aspect of the partial shutdown proved to conservatives the shutdown had been planned in advance – by the president.
“They already had barricades, cones, from New York to California, Utah, Arizona, South Dakota – they had worked out in advance that they were closing these things down,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) during a Wednesday afternoon Fox News interview.
He was referring to the closure of national parks and other landmarks after about 800,000 federal employees were furloughed, and which became a cause célèbre among conservatives.
“Somebody in the Senate had to have given them the heads up, we’re not going to take up anything, and that’s the only thing that explains why they would turn down our initial proposal and then compromises, including one that was just capitulation that night before the shutdown started,” Gohmert said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made clear before the shutdown that Senate Democrats would not pass any funding resolution approved by House Republicans that defunded or delayed Obamacare.
Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) also blamed the president for Republican tactics, accusing Obama of taking the nation to the brink of default to advance his political agenda.
“Republicans were the adults in the room, offering compromise after compromise and urging the President to come to the table and do what’s right for our country,” Bachmann said Thursday in a Facebook post.
Even if the government shutdown was a trap set by the president and one of his closest advisors, some Republican lawmakers seem eager to step into it again.
Rep. John C. Fleming (R-LA) voted against the House measure that reopened the government until Jan. 7 and raised the debt ceiling until Jan. 7, and he said he’s already looking forward to the next shutdown.
“That will get us into Round 2,” Fleming told The New York Times. “See, we’re going to start this all over again.”