Obama, Cruz and Christie Walk Into a Bar

The shutdown was no joke, but what these three have in common is a real punchline.

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Barack Obama; Ted Cruz; Chris Christie (Getty Images)

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The 2016 Republican primary rat pack: Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Chris Christie. Because, for the most part, they kept their mouths shut. Christie, a Republican governor winning re-election in a very blue state (and during the shutdown debacle, no less), was able to keep his brand intact without breaking a sweat — even as his own party collapsed on itself. Paul, once vilified as a filibustering libertarian menace, was strangely quiet and self-sidelined, eager to let his friend Cruz take the heat. Rising star Rubio uttered barely a whisper. Each protected the brand and his chances for 2016, and each was well aware that it takes more than a primary to win a race.

Cory Booker. The tweet-crazy, superstar mayor from Newark, N.J., knows he should have whipped Republican challenger and no-name Steve Lonegan by way more than just 10 points on the same night Congress averted disaster. But it was the shutdown that ultimately saved Booker and further tainted Lonegan’s unapologetic Tea Party style. Shut Twitter off, Cory — you have serious work to do between now and your next election.

Wall Street. Wall Street was losing its damn mind during the shutdown, and it went absolutely berserk as we got closer to an unprecedented national default. Suddenly it had no control over the faux populist Frankenstein it created. Business hacks and corporate political action committees went into action, appearing to become close friends with an Obama White House they once put everything into destroying. Stock indices plummeted, then soared at every rollercoaster rise and fall of the crisis.   

China, Russia and anyone else who has a beef with us or wants to be No. 1. The irony: Normally, Republicans are chest-thumping, pro-defense hawks who’ll jump at any chance to force American world supremacy — yet, they allow a small band of party hard-heads to turn us into weakened geopolitical punks. Why blast the Obama administration for being soft on Syria or incompetent on Benghazi when you’re undermining national security by shutting down the government that maintains it? With antics in Congress threatening an Armageddon-like global financial meltdown, international rivals were more than happy to gloat and point out our corroded political system. But, more urgently, gamesmanship in Congress was an opportunity for unfriendly creditors like China to raise interest rates and rattle our financial cage, thereby giving the upper hand to Beijing at a time when the U.S. can’t afford that. Thanks, fam.

Losers

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). In some ways it would be easy to buck conventional wisdom here and claim Boehner ultimately won — well, for Boehner. He’s still speaker of the House, a gig he probably dreamed of since kindergarten. Not like anyone is going to put up a serious challenge to his Ohio district seat. And he planned all along to play this to its very dramatic end, giving red-meat conservatives the impression that he would fight this to the death. But ultimately, Boehner is the speaker of a shaky house of cards, a lonely and hated man who gains little respect and has little control beyond his Capitol Hill Rotunda office. This episode left him broken and beat down till the next round. 

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