Republican leadership is in a bind. The presidential candidates who want to seem moderate in temperament are in a bind. The pro-life groups are in a bind. But the worst bind of all is actually the one group I haven’t mentioned yet: the media. The media loves to engage in shutdown watches – they think it reveals Republican anti-government nihilism at its worst, and they are typically gleeful about the possibilities of such fights. Except oddly enough, they aren’t talking much about this atom bomb that everyone sees tick tick ticking away on September 30th.
Why is that? Isn’t it obvious? For the media to play up this shutdown fight, as is their nature, they first have to explain what the controversy is all about. And that is the last thing they want to do. An explanation means giving pro-lifers a huge platform to message on Planned Parenthood. “Republicans consider shutting down government for some reason we have no idea why, maybe see paragraph 12 for a possible explanation” is the tone that most coverage of this issue has had thus far. In an actual shutdown scenario, that would have to change. Heaven forbid that Pope Francis mention it in a sentence that also talks about gays.
This is an opportunity that Republican leadership could seize if they wanted to. The likeliest scenario here is no shutdown – a situation where Ted Cruz makes noise, but pro-life groups and leaders give cover, the base is disgusted, and Trump nukes some dumb Senator over it. But that scenario will be more palatable for pro-lifers if they have the opportunity to have their day in the sun. If Republicans put a continuing resolution that defunds Planned Parenthood on the floor for three weeks, forcing the Democrats to rail in opposition and for the media to cover this topic day after day, it would be a far better approach than doing nothing, saying nothing, then cutting a deal at the end of the month, where Mitch McConnell comes out to the microphones and says with a smile that the Senate is open for business.