The Weird Politics of Republican Hostage Taking

| Wed Oct. 9, 2013 2:41 PM EDT

So there's a weird thing going on with the Republican hostage-taking strategy. All of them agree that taking hostages is hunky dory, but there's a split over which hostage should be taken. Some Republicans think the party should go ahead and fund the government and then have an all-out fight using the debt ceiling as leverage. John Boehner, Charles Krauthammer, and Marc Thiessen are in this crew. On the other side, we have Republicans who think we should go ahead and raise the debt ceiling and use the government shutdown as leverage for conservative demands. Tea party firebrands Erick Erickson and Matt Kibbe are on this team.

Here's the weird part: The (relative) moderates want to rely on the debt ceiling for leverage, even though breaching the debt ceiling would be far more catastrophic than a government shutdown. The (relative) extremists are shying away from the horror of a debt ceiling breach and just want to continue the shutdown. Doesn't this seem backward?

It depends on what the real motivations are. Team Boehner claims that they want to use the debt ceiling as a hostage because it's better leverage. But Team Erickson doesn't believe them. They apparently think this is just cover. The moderates know perfectly well that a debt ceiling breach would cause a market panic that in turn would force Republicans to cave in. So they're only pushing this line because they want a way out of the fight, and this will do it. Conversely, a fight over the government shutdown could go on for a long, long time, and eventually Democrats might end up caving in.

That's my take on the oddness of which players are on which team, anyway. Is it correct? I'm not sure. I need Dave Weigel or Robert Costa or someone like that to help interpret the wall posters here.

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