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The Real Story of the 1995 Budget Battle and Government Shutdown

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Let me, if I can -- with some cogency and some real coherence -- explain this Obamacare continuing resolution effort to defund it by even shutting down the government if you have to. September 30th is when the current continuing resolution expires. It'll have to be renewed for the government to keep operating. It be like the nineteenth continuing resolution. We don't have a budget, and we haven't had one for four years.

Now, as you know, Mike Lee has a suggestion. We gotta defund Obamacare, and this is the last gasp, this is the last chance -- and the last chance is to defund it -- and he wants to make this move as part of the continuing resolution fight that. As part of the next continuing resolution, we defund Obamacare. Now, look. The Republican Party could just say to the country, "Look, the president just delayed Obamacare for businesses for a year to help the economy."

That's all they would have to say.

"Obama has delayed the employer mandate by one year in order to do two things: To help the economy and to help the Democrats' election chances in 2014. Obamacare is an albatross around whoever's neck that has to deal with it. So he has given businesses a one-year waiver so that they will not be harmed by it, so they will not be penalized by it. It's a tantamount admission that Obamacare is not helpful."

It's a tantamount admission that Obamacare causes damage, that it causes harm. Well, Obama is out campaigning on economic growth. In order to give that a boost, he's gotta delay a major portion of his health care law: The employer mandate. The other side of that is avoiding negatives for the Democrats going into the 2014 midterms. Well, the Republicans can say, "We want to help the economy for longer than a year.

"We're not interested in just having the economy be given a one-year exemption from damage. We want to eliminate the damage all the way. We want the economy to grow all the time, not just one year. So we want to delay Obamacare forever and for everyone," and there would be dancing in the streets. Tea Party people, Republican voters, and every other group of people opposed to Obamacare would be dancing in the streets.

Think: When was the last time that business and labor really agreed on anything? And it's shaping up now that business and labor both want to do away with this law. It is a golden opportunity. But I think, in my vast experience guided by intelligence, what really scares the Republicans here is that the likelihood of this working would require a government shutdown, and that they are just terrified of one.

That scares them literally to death, because I can't tell you... You in this audience probably know, but for those of you who were not paying close attention in 1995 for whatever reason -- you weren't old enough or you didn't care back then -- that 1995 budget battle is perhaps one of the most (if not the most) formative, negative experiences in the memory of the Republican Party at large.

Their memory of the 1995 budget battles is a series of disasters, when it wasn't. The reason they think it was a disaster is because the media portrayed it that way. Do you remember that after the 1995 budget battle where the Republicans supposedly got shellacked, the Republicans won a bunch of seats in the Senate? I think it was six. Let me check this. Well, they held the House.

I forget how many, but they gained seats in the Senate 1996, after the 1995 budget battle. How in the world...? It is also claimed that Newt Gingrich lost his speakership because of the 1995 budget battle. That's not why he lost his Speakership. He lost his speakership, actually, but the seeds for that sown much earlier than 1995. Newt... It'd be a distraction to go into why now, but the reasons he lost his speakership had more to do with internal House things than the 1995 budget battle.

The 1995 budget battle -- on paper, at the end of the day -- was not a disaster for the Republicans, but it was media-wise. The 1995 budget battle featured Republicans starving kids with the school lunch cuts that didn't exist. There were no cuts in the school lunch program. What there was, in the '95 budget battle, was a reduction in the rate of growth, but the amount of spending on the school lunch program was gonna increase, sizably.

But the Democrats were running around talking about Republicans starving kids, and I remember -- back in 1995, folks, I was it. This is another thing for the Republicans to remember, by the way. In 1995 I was it, as far as conservative media goes. The blogosphere had not come into existence, the Internet was still essentially an infant in this regard. There were no other conservative talk shows.

Fox News was still two years away.

I was it.

It was still a media monopoly: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Washington Post, New York Times, local news, you name it.

I was it.

That's not the case today.

There is an entire conservative media that has now been spawned as a result. Well, it's grown. There is now a conservative media that didn't exist in 1995. There's a huge blogosphere, a number of conservative radio talk shows, Fox News, a number of other isolated examples of conservatism on TV. It would not be the same. The Republican leadership right now... I mean, this is so frustrating. The Republican leadership actually thinks that its problems derive from this new conservative media.

It's the most amazing thing, and they'll tell you so, if you know how to listen.

The Democrats, of course, are telling them all the time, "You need to shut this Limbaugh guy! You gotta stop listening to Limbaugh." You hear 'em attack Fox News all the time. Well, the Republican Party leadership hears all that. They believe it, just they believe that they gotta get more Hispanics if you're ever gonna win the White House, sot hey go for amnesty. They believe everything the Democrat media tells them, and the Democrat media tells them that what's really holding them back is their media: Talk radio, Fox News.

So the Republican leadership actually has an army waiting to support them that they are afraid of, that they don't want to use. They're embarrassed of it. Just as they're embarrassed of their own base. But the Republicans did not lose their shirts in 1995. In addition to not losing their shirts, the 1995 budget battle set the table for welfare reform that was to come later. Bill Clinton vetoed it a number of times, eventually had to sign it into law in order to win reelection in 1996.

In terms of substance, the fights that occurred in the 1995 budget battle set the table for a lot of good policy that came out of it. The sole reason -- maybe not the sole, but the dominant reason that the Republicans today live in mortal fear of a government shutdown is because they got shellacked in the media in 1995. They were accused of starving children, as just one example. Little kids in New Orleans were actually told by their teachers to write letters to members of the House.

Dear such-and-such member of Congress: I can't learn when I'm hungry. Please do not cut the school lunch program and starve me.

Dear member of Congress: It is absolutely unbelievable that you don't want the children of this country to have lunch every day. How are we supposed to eat?

These letters were written in the thousands. They were mailed in. They were amplified and reported on by the media, and of course it was absurd. There weren't any school lunch cuts. Nobody had ever proposed any, and there were certainly no movement to eliminate the program. In fact, school breakfast was being added. School brunch, school snack, then school dinner. And then school club for late at night, go get some vodka. I mean, it was ridiculous.

But just as now, back then there was abject fear. Now, there's another thing that is important in understanding this. It was only the year before, 1994, that the Republicans won the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. They won 56 or 57 seats, I forget which, one of the two. Surprised everybody. There were two people that predicted it: me and Robert Novak. Robert Novak and I were the only two who predicted it. I predicted on the basis of corruption and scandal, the House bank, the House Post Office, Jim Wright, Speaker of the House, I mean, the place was corrupt as it could be.

The Republicans had this massively brilliant 1994 campaign which nationalized House races. Rather than run all these House races on issues that were of local interest to the district, they ran a campaign based on what all these Democrats in the House would mean for the US foreign policy, national impact issues. They had the Contract with America, the 10-point plan that was essentially a list of promises and commitments they'd made. And it resonated. And then when they swept into office, unfortunately, but it must be said, they swept into office and some of the Republicans got really, really huge egos. And they totally misinterpreted why they had won. They assumed, as one of the reasons for their sweeping victory, that the country had changed, that the country had finally matured and had eliminated liberalism. Just finally risen up and said, "We don't want the Democrat Party anymore." And that's not why it happened.

It happened partially for that reason, but not all the way. It happened because of the Contract with America. It happened 'cause of Democrat corruption. It happened because it had been that way for 40 years, circumstances were right, and it happened because there was conservative media for the first time ever: me. There were all of these factors. But the incoming Republican class lost themselves and thought that they were the most popular people in the country, in an ego sense. They thought they were rock stars. They thought Clinton was on the ropes, Clinton might not even run for reelection in '96, it was so bad for Clinton and the Democrats after that '94 sweep. And it was. You had Clinton running around (Clinton impression), "Hey, I'm still relevant, you know. Hey, I'm still president."

So they had this massive ego. They thought the country had changed. They thought everything was going their way and then the budget battle of 1995 happened, and overnight the country hated them again. Psychologically, this was difficult for them to deal with. On the one hand, one day they're rock stars, the most popular politicians in the country, in the world, for a long time. And then the next day, they're hated. And nobody wants to be hated, and certainly not in the media, and so forth. I think all of those factors combine. Today the memory of that is so clear. They are scared to death of having that repeated. But it wasn't bad. They set the stage for a lot of good policy. They increased their hold in the Senate. Clinton ended up signing welfare reform. Substantive, good things happened. But the media killed 'em, and that's what they remember. And it's got them paralyzed. Every Republican leadership since is afraid of having it happen again.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Sugar Land, Texas. It's one of my all-time favorite names a lot of town: Sugar Land, Texas. This is Kent. Great to have you on the program, sir. Hello.

CALLER: Oh, thanks, Rush. Many dittos, and I love your peach iced tea.

RUSH: Thank you, sir.

CALLER: This morning I was watching Fox. Karl Rove was on with his little chalkboard showing that over 90% of the spending on Obamacare will be affected by the discretionary spending and that trying to cut the program -- cut the money from it -- wouldn't really do anything.

RUSH: Byron York has a piece today saying much the same in the Washington Examiner. Byron York says that all this talk about defunding Obamacare is not even possible. The law is it. It's the law of the land now. There's nothing you can do. He made the same point that the spending isn't discretionary, so you can't take it back. There's a theory that Obama's trying to lure the Republicans into doing this and then shutting down the government so he can beat the Republicans up over a shutdown and sail to victory in the 2014 midterms.

CALLER: Yeah, that was on Drudge Report this morning. The Washington Post was saying that was part of their strategy.

RUSH: Yeah.

CALLER: But I don't know. The Republicans can't seem to do their PR anymore. I don't know they would win that battle.

RUSH: Which battle are you referring to?

CALLER: The PR battle on Obamacare, if they do try to cut the funding.

RUSH: No, here's my point. I wish I had more time. We're down to 35 seconds with you and I wish I'da gotten to you sooner, because there's this idea that Obama's trying to lure us into shutting down the government so that we will take the heat. It seems to me that the Republicans always seem to come up with a Democrat strategy that they've detected that is designed to make them give the Democrats what they want in the end. For example, "Well, Obama wants to lure the Republicans into shut down the government.

"So the Republicans gonna screw him by not opposing this and not shutting down the government, and therefore Obama's not gonna get what he wants!" I think it's no different than the Democrats saying, "You better not criticize Obama or the independents are gonna hate you." It's bohunk. The government shutdown in 1995 was not the disaster that everybody thinks that it was. Not substantively.

END TRANSCRIPT

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