If I could be anywhere later tonight, it would be out drinking with John Boehner after the vote. It’s congenital: I’d always rather hang out with the losers. But in his case, there would be special benefits. First, I would ask him about the tanning. Look: it’s just us. The color is kind of weird. I’m just saying. I admit it: I’m a bit too focused on his tanning habits. Second, I would ask him about what went wrong in the government shutdown battle. I think I would say something like this, “I never wanted the fucking shutdown in the first place!” In my fantasy bar scene, Boehner is foul mouthed. “Even still, I had a lot of good ideas. But those mother fucking Tea Party assholes screwed me at every turn!” And do you know what I would say? “You are absolutely right! But I’d still stop the tanning.”
What all this means is that I feel a hell of a lot more comfortable losing than winning. It just feels weird—even weirder than John Boehner’s tan. So as a result of my discomfort, I turned on Fox News and watched Bill O’Reilly’s show The Factor. It wasn’t as helpful as I had hoped. For one thing, since there was breaking news, it wasn’t a usual show. In particular, it looked like Dennis Miller got bumped. That was very sad. Dennis Miller was almost unwatchable when I agreed with him. Now I can’t watch him without shouting at the television. He is yet another person who brings out my latent Tourette’s.
That doesn’t mean that I was completely let down. The narrative of Fox News tonight was that this wasn’t a loss for the Republican Party. Everyone lost! Bret Baier was there to do the “straight news” and he nailed it. In the tradition of the network’s “fair and balanced” approach to the news, he pointed out that President Obama’s approval rated had plummeted to 37%. For most viewers, this has to have been encouraging. They must have thought, “Obama lost!” Unfortunately for me, I knew this was a poll outlier. It is by far the lowest recent poll according to Real Clear Politics. In fact, if you look at the time series, you will see that Obama’s approval is down over the last six months, but it really hasn’t gotten significantly worse since the government shutdown.
Bill O’Reilly, of course, spent the whole time pushing the idea that this just wasn’t especially bad for the Republicans. Remember, this is the “no spin zone” and yet it seemed to be nothing but spin today. After complaining that everyone was saying the Republicans “got their butt kicked,” he said, “Everyone got their butt kicked!” Well, in a technical sense, I guess that’s true. Obama and the Democrats have seen their approval go down a bit. But it is nothing like the Republicans who now have their approval in multiple polls averaging around the mid-20s.
So once again, I was let down by my intelligence and all that pesky knowledge that I’m always picking up. But over time, I came to enjoy the feeling of winning. I could get used to it. Just like some day I will be used to John Boehner’s orange tan.