The Washington Post

Top Tea Party Republican admits it: We’ve been employing hostage strategy

GOP Rep. Steve King of Iowa is one of the leading spokespeople for the Tea Party wing of the House GOP. With the national press continually asking King whether he’ll be making an endorsement in the Iowa caucuses, he has been built up into something of an important GOP figure.

So it’s good to see that King is candidly admitting that the House Tea Party wing has been employing the threat of a government shutdown as nothing more than a deliberate hostage strategy designed to wring maximum concessions from Democrats.

King made the concession in an interview with Laura Ingraham. Dems are highlighting the interview because King bashes House Speaker John Boehner for his weak leadership, but the bolded portion below is the real news here:

KING: We have not lead in a clear way. American people don’t know what House Republicans believe in, and they surely don’t know what we’re willing to fight for. And I am as disappointed as the public is...

It’s clear to me that Speaker Boehner made a decision, either before, but I am convinced it was at least shortly after the election last November, a year ago last November, that we would not be in a position where we would be blamed for shutting down the government ... that’s the only place where you bring the leverage to this Congress, to take on Harry Reid and Barack Obama, is you have to be willing to face a shutdown and you have to have the debate among the American people.

INGRAHAM: You think that would have helped the Republican Party and you guys would be in a better position today if the government had been shut down?
KING: The shutdown isn’t the point so much as, I don’t want the shutdown either. But if you are afraid of the shutdown you can’t have the confrontation and you lose every negotiation along the way.

And there you have it! During each impasse — the first government shutdown fight; the debt ceiling debacle; the payroll tax cut showdown — we keep being told that Tea Partyers really are crazy enough to allow the worst to happen. During the government shutdown fight, we were even told that Tea Partyers viewed that outcome as a positive. Their willingness to take us over a cliff is why Dems simply must make the concessions they’re demanding.

But now a top Tea Party leaders has given away the game, admitting that not even Tea Partyers want a shutdown. Creating the impression that they’re willing to let it happen is only about winning maximum concessions in negotiations. Let’s hope Dems keep this in mind the next dozen times this happens.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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