Jay Carney said there were no winners in this debacle. Really? Some emerged from the rubble better than others.
Ted Cruz (Winner) – Yes, he looks like a loser. He didn't do any real damage to Obamacare. His stunt hurt the economy. He's reviled by many of his colleagues and lampooned everywhere. But he's not trying to make friends with The New York Times or John McCain. Hell, he lost the Houston Chronicle, which endorsed him last year and ripped into him on Thursday for having made such a hash of Washington. But Cruz is trying to be America's conservative leader and for now he's arguably that guy. (Sarah who?) Huey Long and Joseph McCarthy were not popular senators but they built national constituencies using the Senate as their platform. Today, Cruz may look like a kid who pulled the fire alarm, ruining the prom. But in a few months he may just look like the country's most vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act. He'll be in Iowa later this month speaking at the Republican State Party's Ronald Reagan Dinner. Even today he's positioning himself as Obama's bitterest foe. "Unfortunately, once again, it appears the Washington establishment is refusing to listen to the American people," Cruz said on Wednesday. "The deal that has been cut provides no relief to the millions of Americans who are hurting because of Obamacare."
Barack Obama (Loser) – Republican popularity took a dive but it's hard to see the president gaining from all of this. He's got to face another round of debt-ceilings and government shutdowns later this winter and his saying he wants to leap right into immigration reform seems deluded. Instead, he has the joy of more long range entitlement-and-budget talks with Republicans who want to put him in a dicey situation with his own party. What's more, the president said that he wouldn't negotiate – and a negotiated ceasefire is what we ended up with.
John Boehner (Loser) – Better to be feared than loved, the saying goes. The speaker is neither, not enough anyway. He couldn't keep his party from going down this disastrous path and when it came time to gin up a Republican bill to raise the debt ceiling and keep the government running he couldn't get his unruly caucus to agree on a plan. No one doubts Boehner's job is like herding cats and being shot at – at the same time. But the speaker is second in line to the presidency and is supposed to have a gavel of steel. He couldn't control the conference and now he has to pass a Senate-concocted agreement and do so not with a majority of his own people but with the help of Nancy Pelosi. Poor guy looks weak. Even worse, there's no one poised to take over so he's stuck. The irony is that with the far right being discredited, the odds of a coup against Boehner seem more remote than ever.
Hillary Clinton (Winner) – Keeping quiet during this mess was a smart move. D.C. looks ungovernable and she's not having anything to do with it. If you want to be president in 2016 what upside could there possibly be in weighing in on stuff like the medical device tax?
Joe Biden (Loser) – On the other hand, where was Joe Biden? As president of the Senate and the designated grown up, shouldn't he have been in on the deal making and helping to save us from this mess? When the clock approached midnight last year and a shutdown nearly came, he teamed up with his old Senate colleague Mitch McConnell to forge a deal that passed the GOP-led house. This time he wasn't to be seen.
The Reasonable Caucus (Losers) – You have to admire all those reasonable Republicans who the Cruz ship would crash. John McCain, Susan Collins, Peter King, Bob Corker – they all smelled the disaster early and did yeoman's work to try and stave it off. Collins took an especially strong role coming up with the idea of six-months of keeping the government open and a delay in the medical equipment tax. This was a return to form for McCain who used to regularly be the sensible centrist and has gotten away from it in recent years. McCain graciously pointed to all the women senators who had been key to helping set the stage for a deal. That includes Collins but also Mary Landrieu, Lisa Murkowski, and Kelly Ayotte. But all of that common sense was at best a Band-Aid. This wasn't, say, the Gang of 14 that brought peace to the judicial nomination fights of the last decade. It was a reminder that the voices of common sense rarely get heard. The Senate plan, which was ratified by the House, has their fingerprints on it but it was primarily a McConnell-Reid deal not a document from The Reasonable Caucus.
Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell (Winners) – Each is about as likable as a teacher giving detention. But whether it's their longevity or the seriousness with which they took their positions, Harry and Mitch came up with a solution that saved the House from itself and spared the rest of us having to leave in refugee camps while investors fled our shores. "The country came to the brink of a disaster. But in the end, political adversaries set aside their differences and disagreement to prevent that disaster," Reid said on Wednesday morning. What's more, Reid kept Democrats together which wasn't easy given that most voted against the medical device tax. Had a Joe Manchin or Mark Pryor gone off the reservation, it would have been a very tough week. For his part, McConnell also kept his caucus together. The irascible Cruz himself declined to block the final measure. They put aside their animosity and cut a deal. That is so weird.
Republican Governors (Winners) – Chris Christie looked like a mensch when he came through D.C. during the crisis telling Fox News: "Everybody plays brinksmanship and people who I have spoken with across the country, they're tired of it and no one's going to come out this unscathed in Washington nor should they be." But every Republican governor who harbors presidential aspirations, whether it's Christie, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, or others, looks like Churchill compared to this crowd. Americans elected three people straight from the Senate in the last 100 years – Warren Harding, John Kennedy, and Barack Obama. It's hard to see why they'd dip into the Senate pool (or, Ayn Rand forbid, the House) pool after this mess. But the men from Trenton and Baton Rouge look a lot better by comparison.
Kathleen Sebelius (Loser) – HHS Secretary Sebelius might be wondering why she isn't in Kansas anymore. The Obamacare rollout has been a mess and even if the websites get repaired in the coming weeks, no one will forget they were dicier than using Ticketmaster to buy Stones tickets. The rollout came during the shutdown and attack on the Affordable Care Act. No wonder Jay Carney had to say that Sebelius had "the full confidence of the president." Never a good sign if you're getting asked. Her clumsiness made the GOP demand to delay ObamaCare seem reasonable. The House Energy and Commerce Committees conduct hearings on the bungled launch this month. And if she didn't have enough on her plate she will, under the stopgap agreement, have certify that would-be insurance buyers aren't fudging their incomes –assuming they can get on the exchange.