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How Bill Clinton Shamed Republicans For Shutting Down Government

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Obama's catching on. He's naming tea party names. He's showing how the tea party freaks' attack on America is harming individuals.

But he needs to step it up, like Clinton did in shaming the tea party weirdos.

How Bill Clinton Shamed Republicans For Shutting Down The Government In The '90s (VIDEO)

President Bill Clinton's 1996 State of the Union speech may be the moment when Republicans realized that shutting down the government had not been a good idea.

That speech is best remembered for when Clinton declared that the "era of big government is over."

But it was also when Clinton shamed the GOP for the two government shutdowns of 1995 and 1996 that went on for a total of 28 days.

Sitting in the first lady's box for the State of the Union address on Jan. 23 was Richard Dean, a heroic public servant who risked his life to save others during the Oklahoma City bombing. Clinton honored his service, and the entire chamber applauded him.

But then Clinton delivered his kicker: Dean had been furloughed during the government shutdown. His call for Congress to never again shut down the government received loud, boisterous cheers from Democrats, leaving House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) sitting on the podium awkwardly:


"President Clinton ate the Republicans' supper Tuesday night, but House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Sen. Bob Dole wound up with heartburn," wrote Chicago Sun-Times syndicated columnist Carl Rowan two days later.

A Miami Herald editorial on Jan. 29 concluded: "Americans got the message; so did the Republicans who control Congress. The House and Senate on Friday quickly passed a stopgap budget averting a third shutdown. Displaying his enviable talent for crafting victory phrases even in retreat, House Speaker Newt Gingrich dubbed the legislation 'The Balanced Budget Down-Payment Act.'"

And there was no doubt that House Republican Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) realized that politically, Clinton had won. According to the 1997 book Mirage by George Hager and Eric Pianin, DeLay had gone home and rewatched the State of the Union speech at 1:30 a.m.

"Tom DeLay screamed at Bill Clinton, fighting the urge to throw something," wrote Hager and Pianin. They said he sat "raging at his television set, calling Clinton a 'lying, disingenuous, smarmy son of a bitch.'"
 
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