Keeping It Real
Passing health care is not Marxism, but common sense.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
This whole political meltdown is getting very old, but things could be even worse.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told The New York Times recently that the notion that our entire system of government is broken “is a thumbsucker for Washington cocktail parties.”
Emanuel cited an improved financial system, the winding down of the Iraq war, recent military successes in Afghanistan and admittedly modest economic growth as signs of hope. “Ungovernable, or governable?’’ he asked rhetorically.
Since the first choice is unacceptable, I have to side with Emanuel, even though the politicians in Washington and Sacramento aren’t giving us much reason for optimism these days. Given the choice between a lecture about the inequities of the current filibuster rules or a profane Chicago politican sticking his thumb in the eye of any Republican – or Democratic – leader who gets in the way, I’ll take the wheeler-dealer.
The acid test may come this week, when Obama hosts a televised session with both parties to see if they can finally find common ground on health-care reform, or if the cause will be consigned, once again, to the dustbin of history.
If the president is smart, he’ll listen to some of what they have to say – perhaps by throwing in concessions on pet GOP causes like tort reform. He’ll also have to deal with the conventional wisdom that Democrats polling at less than 9 percent above their opponents are in imminent risk of defeat in the midterm elections, as one Washington insider with local ties recently told me.
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW IN POLITICS IS SCIENCE FICTION.
If the Republicans are smart, they’ll stop trying to slavishly hold on to the party line until November, and find some middle ground.
The crackpots at the Conservative Political Action Committee may have had a good time feeding the collective bonfire at their recent Washington D.C. pow-wow, but holding the nation’s future hostage to their ugly and utterly implausible views is not a serious option.
You’ve probably already seen Glenn Beck’s rant to the group on television or online, but if not, here’s a sample that should give you serious pause: “It is still morning in America. It just happens to be kind of a head-pounding, hungover, vomiting-for-four-hours kind of morning in America. And it’s shaping up to be kind of a nasty day.”
Well, getting nastier by the minute – especially if CPAC gets its way.
If this crowd wants to run their own Tea Party slate against “soft” GOP candidates like John McCain and Texas Senator-turned-gubernatorial-candidate Kay Hutchinson, they can reap the whirlwind they have sown.
Interestingly, it was libertarian Ron Paul – not media fave Sarah Palin – who earned their endorsement.
Palin once again distinguished herself last week with a rant against a joke by an actress with Down’s Syndrome on The Family Guy, bringing to mind Jerry Brown’s observation when Dan Quayle – remember Dan Quayle? – decried Murphy Brown’s unwed motherhood as an example of the shoddy moral values that were bringing this nation down.
Asked what he thought of the controversy, the Zen master-turned-once-and-possibly-future governor mused: “Murphy Brown, I believe, is a fictional character.”
What’s happening now in politics is closer to science fiction, alas.
I hope, but don’t necessarily believe, that a compromise will come out of the health telethon.
But at this point, I’m not proud. I don’t care if it’s the House bill or the Senate version, if it passes 60-40 or gets in through a strictly partisan reconciliation process. I’d take almost anything that covers the uninsured, doesn’t exclude pre-existing conditions and begins to bring America back within the community of nations that believes in caring for their citizens.
In order for that to happen, Obama may have to knock off some of the speechifying, turn people like Emanuel loose, and do some old-fashioned arm-twisting to make sure people know he means what he says and that they’ll face unpleasant consequences if they don’t get with the program.
The other action step that is required, even more critically, is getting an extension of unemployment benefits through Congress.
According to a recent Times article about “the new poor,” about 2.7 million people who are out of work will lose their benefits by the end of April unless an extension gets passed. Now.
Forget, for the time being, the blather about whether a new stimulus package will further worsen the deficit.
Since there’s no prospect of new jobs in sight, this is literally a matter of life or death.
If extending basic benefits is socialism, call me Karl Marx.
Meanwhile, our representatives in Sacramento and Washington are behaving like a different Marx: Groucho.