Friday, December 23, 2011

A Blink Before Brinkmanship Returns

Now that House Republicans have blinked and joined their Senate counterparts in recognizing politics as the art of compromise, 160 million Americans can enjoy two more months of lower payroll taxes, while the unemployed can breathe easier for another eight weeks with jobless benefits before brinkmanship returns to the nation’s capital in the form of another exasperating debate on fiscal policy.

Try as I might to avoid political commentary, it’s virtually impossible. So here goes...

During his tenure representing the state of Wyoming in the U.S. Senate (1979-1997), Alan Simpson was not on my list of favorite senators. The tall, craggy 80-year-old conservative Republican could be quite charming, folksy and jocular, but his politics was clearly way to the right for my tastes.

Simpson, however, by his own admission on the Brian Lehrer Show on NPR Wednesday, would find it impossible to get a Republican nomination today as he’s an advocate of personal privacy, which means he supports gay rights and abortion rights. As co-chairman with Erskine Bowles of the Deficit Reduction Commission, he also acknowledged the need to raise more revenue through new or higher taxes, heresy among Tea Party members and the Republican faithful who have lined up like lemmings behind them.

Switching over to the EIB (Excellence in Broadcasting) Network to listen to some conservative talk show “wisdom,” I was disappointed Rush Limbaugh was on vacation. But his substitute, Mark Davis of WBAP in Dallas, didn’t fail to deliver more grist to the mill. He praised, for example, Republican members of the supercommittee charged with working out a deal on the budget for sticking to their guns. In other words, for not compromising. It was another unfortunate example of standing on principle at all costs, even if it meant the government might shut down, the public would be hurt and trust in elected officials to effectively govern and legislate decreased.

Davis also debunked the argument that conservatives are racist. His proof—they went “ga-ga” over Herman Cain and their favorite Supreme Court justice would be Clarence Thomas. At the same time he decried Attorney General Eric Holder for playing the race card to explain why he and Barack Obama are viciously attacked. It’s just policy differences that bring on the attacks, he said.

My need for some Rush was somewhat sated by a commercial featuring his mellifluous voice. He was pitching membership in the Heritage Foundation, a think tank dedicated, he said, to personal liberties. I wonder, though. What’s more personal than choosing your sexual orientation, or choosing whether to carry a pregnancy to full term? Not sure, but I would guess Alan Simpson would have a hard time being a member of this right-wing organization.

Simpson also had some interesting thoughts on Newt Gingrich and why so many Republican leaders have trouble supporting his candidacy for president. Seems that when Newt was Speaker of the House he agreed during a private meeting with President George Bush the First to a plan to buttress the economy that included a tax hike. Bush reluctantly agreed despite his “Read my lips, no new taxes” pledge. But when it came time to vote, Gingrich publicly repudiated the agreement. He is untrustworthy, not a man of his word, said Simpson. Not surprising, therefore, that Bush 1 yesterday endorsed Mitt Romney.

Of course, Republicans aren’t the only ones dishing out disappointment this holiday season. Obama has indicated he would sign a bill permitting indefinite detention for not only foreign nationals but also for American citizens thought to be supporters of terrorism. Incarceration without trial could last as long as hostilities remain active. Since there’s no foreseeable end to terrorism, even after Osama bin Laden was killed, anyone detained could languish in prison forever. Obama has been as bad for civil liberties as Bush 2.

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