The Beltway media has found its new obsession. The implosion of the House Republican conference that began with John Boehner's announcement that he was stepping down as Speaker went thermonuclear when Kevin McCarthy, his presumed successor, bowed out of the race. The internecine war within the House GOP has become a full-fledged crisis that laid bare a years-long descent into blind governmental obstruction that included hundreds of Senate filibusters, a government shutdown, and more than fifty fruitless attempts to repeal Obamacare.
While the media has, until now, been wary of pointing a finger solely at the GOP (the preferred "both sides do it" trope is so ingrained at this point, you wonder whether it's taught in J school), journalists are slowly coming around to the idea that it is not President Obama's failure to invite Republicans to the White House for drinks that is to blame for Washington dysfunction, but rather, the nihilistic streak infecting the House Republican caucus. Their timing could not be worse - the country will hit its borrowing limit in less than a month and the government is running on a continuing budget resolution that expires in two.
Of course, as is the media's wont, the focus is on process and personalities - can Paul Ryan be cajoled into accepting this thankless job? Did McCarthy bow out because of rumors circulating in the right-wing blogosphere? Might Newt Gingrich return to save the day? (not making this one up). This plays to the preferred narrative that has turned politics into some combination of soap opera and professional wrestling, and it surely fills hours on cable news and column inches in newspapers, but lost in this is the fact that paying the country's bills and passing a budget that funds everything from the FBI to food safety, is the bare minimum of what any Congress should be able to do. It is the equivalent of waking up and brushing your teeth in the morning.
That the Beltway media characterizes raising the debt ceiling and passing a budget as burdens, not requirements of government is embarrassing. Instead of shaming Republicans for failing to achieve even this minimum threshold for governing, journalists view these issues through a purely political lens that simply considers how John Boehner might ease Paul Ryan's ascension to Speaker by getting these pesky pieces of business out of the way. And if the media wants to focus on Ryan's viability, it would be great if they spent a bit more time picking through his radical policies like privatizing Medicare and transferring trillions in tax dollars to the wealthy and what it would say about the Republican party if their public face supported such extreme positions than whether or not he is BFFs with his own caucus.
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