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Late Night: Why DIDN’T You Shut Down the Government Over the War?


I mean, I’m sorry, Harry, but come on: 

In his letter to Boehner, Reid drew an analogy to Republicans’ current objects to the Affordable Care Act to his opposition to the Iraq War.

“I hated the Iraq War. I think I hated it as much as you hate the Affordable Care Act,” Reid wrote.

“There were many gut-wrenching nights when I struggled over what I needed to do to end the carnage. In those days, when President Bush was Commander in Chief, I could have taken the steps that you are taking now to block Government funding in order to gain leverage to end the war. I faced a lot of pressure from my own base to take that action. But I did not do that. I felt that it would have been devastating to America.”

Am I the only one who read this and thought:

a) His base was demanding that? I don’t remember anybody even thinking of that.

b) Shit, why DIDN’T we think of that?

After all, ending the Iraq War had a higher approval rating than defunding Obamacare does. It would also have prevented A LOT OF DEAD PEOPLE, whereas the current government shutdown is about preventing people from getting health insurance. The objective matters. These two things aren’t precisely equal. You want to compare hopeless causes, I’m always gonna go with the one that has as its aim keeping more people alive than otherwise.

I mean, would that we had a party that would fight that hard over an illegal war of choice that turned out to be based entirely on bullshit. Would that we actually had a party that stood in genuine and strident opposition to KILLING FOR NO REASON, that was willing to put its own ass on the line for an outcome rooted not in racism, greed and vanity but in genuine interest in the national welfare.

I know, I know, what the narrative would have been, what the political risks would have been, what the actual risks of a shutdown in the middle of a war would have been. But when I thinik about those risks, about the way Democrats were so scared of being branded cowards if they stood against the war, I can’t help but wish they’d been willing to risk as much toward a selfless end as Republicans are toward a selfish one.

I might not have wanted them to do it, knowing that they would have lost, knowing that the people hurt wouldn’t have been those who were to blame. But I would have liked it if they’d possessed the will to push that hard and speak that loudly.


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Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel is a 10-year veteran of the newspaper business. She publishes First Draft, a writing and politics blog, with her partners Holden, Jude and Scout. She is the author of the books Chicago's Historic Irish Pubs (2011, Arcadia Publishing, with Mike Danahey) and It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal, about a great liberal journalism institution (2007, Heritage Books). She also edited the anthology “Special Plans: The Blogs on Douglas Feith and the Faulty Intelligence That Led to War” (2005, William, James & Co.) Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Daily Southtown, Sirens Magazine, and Alternet. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two ferrets, and approximately 60 tons of books.