The Heritage Foundation's political activism arm is so heavily invested in the idea of shutting down the government in the hopes of sabotaging the federal health care system that it's trying something new: Heritage is trying to play its own Republican allies for fools.
Heritage Action for America has been pushing a new "poll" -- I use the word loosely -- that purportedly surveyed likely voters in 10 relatively competitive congressional districts. And wouldn't you know it, Heritage found that the electoral effects of a shutdown wouldn't be that bad for the GOP.
But before congressional Republicans take the results too seriously, they might want to look at how some of the questions were worded:
* "As you might know, major parts of the Obama health care law will soon be implemented, including the mandate that requires every individual to buy health insurance or pay a fine, and the government-sponsored health insurance exchanges that are affecting private sector health care premiums and access to doctors. Do you think it would be appropriate for Congress to temporarily halt funding for the health care law before these provisions take effect, to make sure they do not do more harm than good?
* "In order to get President Obama to agree to at least have a 'time out' on implementing the health care law and its full effects, would you approve or disapprove of a temporary slowdown in non-essential federal government operations, which still left all essential government services running?
* "If there was an impasse between President Obama and Congress on whether to continue to fund the health care law, and that impasse resulted in a partial government shutdown, among the following, who would you say would be mostly to blame for that?"
Heritage apparently forgot to ask, "Don't you think Democrats, who are notorious for having cooties, are less cool than the super-awesome Republicans?"
I mean, really, Heritage. You were once an influential think tank. Have you no pride?
But wait, there's a punch-line to this that makes it even funnier.
Heritage Action for America claims this is a reliable poll, but it clearly isn't. Heritage claims the survey was conducted in relatively competitive congressional districts, but it was really conducted in Republican-led districts.
And Heritage claims that the results should set GOP minds at ease, but even after asking truly ridiculous questions, a plurality of respondents in this so-called poll still said they'd blame Republicans for a shutdown.
That's after respondents heard the slanted questions and after the pollster described a government shutdown as "a temporary slowdown in non-essential federal government operations, which still left all essential government services running."
Jonathan Bernstein's summary rings true: "Yes, that's right. Heritage is asking Republicans in Congress to base their choices about the next fiscal showdown on a partisan poll of GOP House districts. So we have a loaded sample asked loaded questions -- and Republican politicians are supposed to stake their careers on it? Really, any politician who would take this sort of stuff seriously deserves whatever he or she gets."