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Obama tees off on hard-right lawmakers: Lynn Sweet

President Barack Obamspeaks State Dining Room White House WashingtThursday Oct. 17 2013. Lawmakers Wednesday voted avoid financial default reopen government

President Barack Obama speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Lawmakers Wednesday voted to avoid a financial default and reopen the government after a 16-day partial shutdown. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

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Updated: November 19, 2013 9:40AM



WASHINGTON — Call him a sore winner.

President Barack Obama slapped tea party Republicans on Thursday for dragging the nation through 16 days of a partial federal government shutdown and leading the U.S. to the brink of an economic disaster.

If you don’t like a policy or a president, argue for your position and “go out there and win an election,” Obama said at the White House, hours after signing a stopgap bill reopening the federal government and lifting the debt ceiling.

Obama offered a hand and kind word to what he called “responsible Republicans,” reserving his irritation for the lawmakers who find nothing redeeming in his administration.

“I understand we will not suddenly agree on everything now that the cloud of crisis has passed. Democrats and Republicans are far apart on a lot of issues.

“And I recognize there are folks on the other side who think that my policies are misguided. That’s putting it mildly. That’s OK. That’s democracy. That’s how it works. We can debate those differences vigorously, passionately, in good faith, through the normal democratic process. And sometimes we’ll be just too far apart to forge an agreement,” Obama said.

Which is what led to the debacle.

The measure Obama signed early Thursday only kicked the can down the road, funding the federal government through Jan. 15 and lifting the debt ceiling until Feb. 7.

With some breathing room for now, Obama set three goals for Congress to get done by the end of the year. “Passing a budget, immigration reform, farm bill. Those are three specific things that would make a huge difference in our economy right now, and we could get them done by the end of the year — if our focus is on what’s good for the American people. “

Congressional Republicans — overly influenced by the hard-line tea party — allowed their collective loathing of Obamacare to jam their political radar as they pursued a strategy of trying to leverage the debt ceiling and shutdown to gut the health-care law. They got nothing expect blame for creating a mess in return.

Though the opportunity to trot out this tactic again will be available early next year, Republicans — who are getting slammed in polls for creating the mess — would be politically crazy to trigger another near-disaster so close to the mid-term elections.

Since Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — up for re-election in 2014 — is extremely sane; he ruled out another shutdown in a Thursday interview with The Hill, a newspaper covering Capitol Hill.

“One of my favorite old Kentucky sayings is there’s no education in the second kick of a mule. The first kick of a mule was when we shut the government down in the mid-1990s and the second kick was over the last 16 days,” he said. “There is no education in the second kick of a mule. There will not be a government shutdown.

“I think we have fully now acquainted our new members with what a losing strategy that is,” he added.

Obama, sans the mule analogy, was making a series of related points about the failed GOP tactics in his remarks, again without ever referring to Republicans or the tea party by name.

“But probably nothing has done more damage to America’s credibility in the world, our standing with other countries, than the spectacle that we’ve seen these past several weeks. It’s encouraged our enemies, it’s emboldened our competitors, and it’s depressed our friends, who look to us for steady leadership.”

Obama could not just take his deserved victory lap, however. He was patronizing with his warning that now “government has reopened and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists, and the bloggers, and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do.”

Obama may have thought he threw a dart at the hard-right tea party movement with his advice to all of us on who not to listen to. But with only a truce for now, Obama may be very grateful soon for McConnell’s mule.

Email: lsweet@suntimes.com

Twitter: @lynnsweet



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