Giffords’ Surprise Appearance on House Floor Was a Moment of Grand Political Theatre

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I was watching the House vote on the debt-ceiling “Raw Deal” live on C-SPAN yesterday when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democrat, made a surprise appearance to cast her vote. Giffords was shot in the head by a crazed gunman last January, as everyone knows, and few people expected her to return to work, ever.

It is telling that she returned to vote for the deficit-ceiling deal that Pres. Obama struck with the tea bagger faction in the House — even though many, if not most of 28 of the baggers, did not vote for it themselves. Giffords is one of the few remaining Blue Dogs in the Democratic caucus. Her appearance yesterday is likely a sign that, while she probably won’t run for the Senate next year, as had been widely speculated before she was shot, she will seek reelection to the House. If so, she will need the votes of right-leaning independents in her district.

Giffords’ unexpected appearance on the House floor at a moment of high political drama was no accident. It was carefully stage-managed political theatre for which Giffords’ friends, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, among others, are likely responsible.

Without Giffords’ appearance, the Raw Deal’s passage would have been a moment of unmitigated triumph for the tea party GOP and for Speaker Boehner. Instead, Pelosi et al stepped all over Boehner’s victory and rewrote the headlines about the vote that you are reading today.