As congressional Republicans shut down the federal government last fall, there was some effort among conservatives to redefine the word “shutdown” to make it seem less politically provocative. Fox News and others said it was a “slowdown,” not a “shutdown.”
In time, even the most stubborn Republican voices gave up, realizing that a shutdown by any other name is still a shutdown. But as GOP lawmakers give up on legislating for the rest of the year and move into full-time campaign mode, the plainly silly effort to redefine the word is apparently making a comeback.
Andrew Kaczynski uncovered this gem:
South Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Sanford claimed in an interview that was posted on YouTube Sunday that the “government didn’t shutdown” during the government shutdown.“The government didn’t shut down,” Sanford said. “I mean everyone likes to describe it as such. The president in some cases shut down parts of government that were most visible to people. People were still getting their Social Security checks. They’re still enacting, enrolled in Medicare. I mean, I could go through a lot of different functions of government. You know, we had planes that were flying on a nightly basis, you know, using pieces of sort of our national infrastructure grid. So a lot of things were happening.”
And what about all of those closings Americans might remember seeing last October? That, according to the Republican congressman, was just President Obama “exerting political pressure,” closing parks and monuments on purpose to make Republicans look bad.
I’ve watched the video; there was nothing to suggest Sanford was kidding.
It’s a fascinating turn in the larger trajectory of the debate. Even at the time, it wasn’t altogether clear why Republicans had shut down the government – it had something to do with their hatred for the Affordable Care Act, but there was no coherent strategy – in the months that followed, most GOP officials came to realize this was a mistake.
But not Sanford. In his mind, the shutdown wasn’t a mistake because there was no shutdown. We only think there was.
Mark Sanford is known for creative euphemisms and deceptive rhetoric, but this is ridiculous.
For the record, there was a government shutdown. It did real harm to the economy and it led to furloughs of about 800,000 American workers – not because the president was playing a game, but because congressional Republicans refused to keep the government’s lights on. By one estimate, the pointless GOP scheme cost the economy $24 billion and hundreds of thousands of jobs.
It was an easily avoidable disaster, which congressional Republicans imposed on the nation for reasons they still can’t explain. If Sanford wants to debate the cause of the shutdown, fine. If he wants to discuss who’s responsible, no problem. But the event itself cannot be redefined out of existence this easily.