Deeply ingrained in the psyche of every congressional Republican is the government shutdown of 1995, for which Republicans were blamed. While many Republicans now believe the shutdown was a mistake, more think the problem was that the party lost its nerve.
Former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos, now host of ABC’s This Week, has validated that view. In his memoir, he wrote that Democrats, until then holding out against the Republicans’ budget-limiting efforts, were close to blinking. “Clinton was grumpy, the rest of us were grim,” until suddenly news came that Senate majority leader Bob Dole and House speaker Newt Gingrich were blinking first. “Whether the cause was hubris, naïveté, or a failure of nerve,” Stephanopoulos explained, “the Republicans had blown their best chance to splinter our party; from that point on, everything started breaking our way.”