Given the incredibly high stakes in the current debate over the debt ceiling—and the regrettably lackluster performance of the Republican House in its recent budgetary confrontation with the White House—I thought it might be apropos to remind ourselves of how Reagan handled a similar situation as Governor of California.
As the Demophiliac media of the day would’ve had it, had poor little Bryan had the misfortune to be playing guitar in California, the evil Governor Reagan would’ve confiscated his guitar, chopped off young Bryan’s fingers, and denied him access to a state-supplied band-aid. Take for example, this bit of “even-handed” reporting by the Associated Press (w/ just a bit of commentary)
Republican Go. Ronald Reagan’s refusal to accept an emergency bill to keep the state running solvently for the next 30 days plunged California into unprecedented fiscal chaos.
Ah ha! I just knew Darth Reagan was single-handedly responsible for the fiscal chaos.
Salaries for employes [sic] of the nation’s most populous state were cut off and Reagan asked them to work for free. State officials no longer had authority to pay wages or bills.
The governor blamed Assembly Democrats led by his political rival, Assemblyman Jesse M. Unruh, for the crisis.
And we all know jolly ole’ St. Jesse never attempted to blame Governor Reagan for the budget deadlock. Why good King Unruh was…was…so apolitically focused that his own caucus went around him to negotiate a deal with Governor Reagan the next day.
Reagan refused to accept a stopgap emergency measure continuing state appropriations for 30 days, until the dispute is settled. He said to do so “would be to establish a precedent for annual blackmail.”The bottom line is, Reagan was right. Californians knew Reagan was right. The Democrats in the state house knew the people knew Reagan was right. So, in the end, slanted media coverage didn’t have nearly the impact that many assumed it would.
For all our presidential candidates and Congressional republicans tempted to believe that if they just give the President this debt extension, then the press will see what nice guys they are and treat them fairly, here’s a spoiler alert: The Democrats are going to call you “heartless,” “racist,” accuse you of shoving grandma off a cliff, etc. It doesn’t matter how many delightful stories you swapped over cocktails, the minute the cameras come on, you will instantly metamorphosize into Satan. Just accept that this is the way the game is played. If you’re not willing to deal with this, get out of politics—or at least get out of the GOP so we can make room for somebody who can't be blackmailed.