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Press Review: Tyranny by an extremist minority?

The international press and blogosphere have been full of comments on the US government shutdown. Most see doom and gloom on the horizon, and fret over the repercussions.

The French regional newspaper Ouest-France calls the US government shutdown a "deep crisis of democracy." We now see the "chronic paralysis from which American democracy is suffering," the paper writes, "as if militant interests can no longer be reined in, as if institutions no longer have a voice, or mediators."

Le Monde, also from France, argues that there is no "rational explanation" for the behavior of the Republicans in Congress. "They are trying to sabotage Obama's presidency … and their understanding of politics resembles permanent civil war."

The German daily Die Welt even goes a step further and comments that "the political polarization in the US Congress and the inability of both camps to compromise has turned America, for the time being, into a failed state."

The Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant paints an equally gloomy picture and is deeply worried that the "fanaticism with which the Republicans are fighting should be a concern to more than just Americans." If there is no agreement soon on raising the country's debt ceiling, the paper warns, "it will cause much larger collateral damage, because then, the global economy will tumble into a deep recession."

Britain's Independent scoffs at the Republicans, calling the actions of its right-wing Tea Party faction to block the budget "tyranny by an extremist minority."

El Mundo of Spain sees the Republicans "acting like pirates. Their blackmailing of the president shows that they have lost all common sense."

Sweden's Svenska Dagbladet, on the other hand, says it is US President Barack Obama whose job it is to lead America out of its dead end. Obama "ran for office promising to end the polarization of American politics. But now, he is putting the world economy at risk to save his favorite policy," the paper notes, referring to the president's controversial healthcare initiative.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung from Switzerland cannot figure out what advantage the Republicans could possibly hope to achieve with their "insane tactic." It is a "mystery", the paper says, and "the Republicans will pay a price for this miscalculation. It is a godsend for the Democrats in the run-up to the next Congressional elections in 13 months," the paper concludes.

In the US blogosphere, the government shutdown has gone viral, predictably along party lines. Politico, a leftist US blog, comments that President Obama started September in an agonizing, extended display of how little sway he had in Congress. He ended the month with a display of resolve and strength that could redefine his presidency, say Politico writers Edward Dovere and Reid Epstein. "All it took was a government shutdown."

Another left-wing site Maddow Blog and its author Steve Benen write: "The [Republicans'] shutdown, driven entirely by the party's hysterical opposition to health care access, will not derail the Affordable Care Act. This incredibly dumb, easily avoided shutdown will have the practical effect of hurting the economy, wasting an enormous amount of taxpayer money, and needlessly punishing hundreds of thousands of federal workers and their communities."

The conservative Heritage Foundation blog, The Foundary, contradicts that assessment: "All the fearful fretting over shutting down the government is really a distraction. Government funding isn't the issue. It's Obamacare," the blog writes, referring to the Affordable Care Act. "We believe the American people deserve an exemption from Obamacare," the blog continues. "The President and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid continue to go against the will of the public to protect an unworkable law that has raised individuals' healthcare premiums, cut workers' hours, made it more difficult to find a job, and has forced many Americans off their existing health coverage," it emphasizes.

The US blockade has also garnered tremendous attention in China, a country that funds a lot of the US budget. The gridlock in the US, decried by most commentators in the US and Europe, strikes many Chinese as a sign of lawfulness, judging by the comments of Chinese netizens on the blogsite, Sina Weibo.

Xu Jilin, a professor of history at East China Normal University in Shanghai wrote: "The government is shut down, but the country is not in disorder. Now, that's what you call a good country where people can live without worry."

Another user, @HeYanbin, described the issue as one of trade-offs: "The shutdown is just the result of a two-party standoff. Only in this kind of society do you have rule and order, not tyranny. China isn't like that. In this regard, I envy the US."

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