Selfishness Underlies the Shutdown, At Home and Abroad

Americans aren’t the only ones talking about government shutdown this week. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi almost collapsed Italy’s government on Wednesday by threatening to pull his party’s support for the current left-right coalition government. Fortunately, he eventually relented. At their core, petty selfishness drives both President Obama and Berlusconi’s actions.

The former, by defending his signature healthcare law at any cost, hopes to preserve his spot in the history textbooks. The latter will pull out all the stops to prevent his expulsion from the Italian Senate—after a tax fraud conviction this summer–that would signal an end to his longtime pursuit for political glory.

I elaborate on their similar motives to gum up the political works in my recent op-ed in Forbes.

Obama won’t negotiate on the health law because it is the centerpiece of his domestic “legacy,” hoping to be immortalized alongside Democratic heroes like FDR and LBJ, who stuck to their guns in advancing their big-government vision for America. Public opinion be damned, Americans will learn to like it later.


Meanwhile, Berlusconi is on a hunt for glory, having portraying himself as an action hero poised to rescue Italy from the “edge of abyss.” And he doesn’t want to lose that moment in the sun, much as Obama doesn’t want to lose his “legacy.”

Berlusconi and his deputies threatened to collapse Italy’s government over petty self-interest. Instead of material gain, Obama promises his deputies a place in history alongside himself. By refusing to even negotiate with Republicans over aspects of the health law that are unpopular among businesses, individuals, and their own supporters, Obama and Congressional Democrats, driven by the same motives as their Italian counterparts, created a government shutdown.

How many more days must pass before Obama and his Democrats realize that self-serving stubbornness is not a governing style?

Read the whole article in Forbes here.