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Government Shutdown: A Hostile Act Against A Civil Society By A “Band Of Rebels”

Shutting down the federal government is a hostile act against civil society.

The Civil War started 150 years ago in April 1861, and we are still getting over it, still talking about it, still writing about it. Some in the South have still not made peace with the end of the Civil War and hold fast to “heroes,” notably General Robert E. Lee. President Abraham Lincoln showed what he thought of Lee when he seized Arlington, Lee’s stately home and slave plantation across the Potomac River, and started burying the dead Union soldiers in the ground there.

Lincoln’s message could not be clearer: Leading an assault on the Union was not a Sunday picnic in the country. Serious consequences followed, hitting home.

Now we have a band of rebels—87 of them newcomers—in the House Republican majority, who are fixin’ for a fight. Spoiling to see the Capitol Dome go dark. Acting as if that’s the mission, the reason they crossed lines to come into the heart of the enemy. Washington is a staging ground for their defiant anger at the Union. The republic is under a new kind of siege.

If they have their way, the federal government will be closed this time next week, not what we need right now with so many American households hanging by a thread. 

Now a few facts to concentrate the mind. First, the Tea Party is part of the problem. But hold the whole lot of House Republicans and their leaders responsible. If there are any grown-ups in the House, they are allowing their most radical element, unschooled freshmen, to dominate in a delicate showdown looming with the Senate and the White House.

Second, remember the Senate is controlled by a Democratic majority, a fact conveniently forgotten by the lower chamber, whose members often brag about the last election. The 2010 outcome was actually an evenly divided government, with a Democratic president to play his part in final outcomes, laws, and budgets. That’s the way it should be, if Senate Democrats and President Obama will only stand up to the rebels.

Third, the scope of the House Republican “defunding” demands is tantamount to waging war on our civil society as we know it. I don’t mean just NPR. Some of the priceless “commons” are at risk, in the proposed degradation of environmental programs. Social programs like family planning and women’s health are on the chopping block in an offensive against women’s health and reproductive rights. Chris Van Hollen, a House Democrat from Maryland, reads it right: Across the aisle is an extreme agenda to impose a right-wing ideology on town and country, using budget cuts as a vehicle.

Fourth and finally, whether $33 billion or $60 billion is cut from the budget, it will be too much. For the collective health of the nation, either number is like going on a diet when you’re starving. It’s really no use the two congressional chambers meeting in the middle, because the rebels can say they won the day—and they might be “right” in more ways than one. They skewed the debate by passing their draconian budget early and talking it up every day since.

What the GOP House freshmen lack in knowledge, they make up with sophomoric enthusiasm. They are so gung ho to camp out in the dark. Remembering Lincoln, don’t let the rebels take over and turn the lights out on us.

By: Jamie Stiehm, U.S. News and World Report, April 4, 2011

April 5, 2011 Posted by | Democracy, Federal Budget, Government Shut Down, Health Care, Ideologues, Politics, President Obama, Senate, Teaparty, Women's Health | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mad Men and Mad Women: Republicans And Social Engineering

Republicans hate social engineering, unless they’re doing it.

Wishing they had the power to repeal the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and get back to the repressed “Mad Men” world they crave, some conservative lawmakers grumpily quizzed upbeat military brass on Friday.

“We’re starting to try to conform the military to a behavior, and I remember going through the military, we took behaviors and we formed it to the military,” said Representative Allen West of Florida, warning ominously (and weirdly) that “this could be the camel getting his nose under the tent.”

The House Armed Services subcommittee hearing was led by Joe Wilson, the oh-so-subtle Republican congressman from South Carolina famous for yelling “You lie!” at President Obama. Wilson started off the hearing by saying that the legislation to let gays stop lying while they risk dying was rushed through in an “undemocratic” lame-duck session.

Two top Pentagon officials testified that the transition was going swimmingly, yet Republicans scoffed. Representative Austin Scott of Georgia demanded the price tag. Clifford Stanley, an under secretary of defense, replied that the training materials cost only $10,000.

Scott harrumphed, “If something was done at D.O.D. for $10,000, I would like to know what it was.” He said that hundreds of thousands had been spent training a soldier in his district to disarm I.E.D.’s, but the soldier wouldn’t re-enlist because of the “social policy.”

The Democrat Chellie Pingree of Maine jumped in to note that the cost of purging gays between 2004 and 2009 was $193.3 million: “It’s not only unconscionable … but the costs are horrendous.”

Scott persisted in looking for trouble, even after Vice Adm. William Gortney, director of the joint staff, said the Pentagon had seen no problems so far.

The congressman asked the admiral if he had ever dismissed anyone. Gortney said he had dismissed a young sailor who acknowledged being gay after “don’t ask, don’t tell” first passed.

“Did you discharge him from the service because he was gay?” Scott asked. “Or because he violated the standard of conduct?”

“Because he was gay,” Gortney said.

“He did not violate the standard of conduct before he was dismissed?” Scott pressed.

“He did not,” Gortney said.

“Well,” Scott said, once more at a loss, “that’s not the answer I thought you would give, to be honest with you.”

Gortney assured him there were “very few cases” of gays’ being dismissed for violating the standard of conduct.

After the Republican rout in November, the story line took hold that because of the recession and Tea Partiers’ fervent focus on the debt as a moral matter, divisive social issues were going on the back burner. But lo and behold, social issues have roared back. Many in the Tea Party have joined that chain-smoking, cocktail-quaffing Mad Man John Boehner in the martini party to put a retro focus on wedge issues, from gays to abortion.

Like Boehner, who complained that Democratic leaders were “snuffing out the America that I grew up in,” some Tea Partiers are jumping in a time machine. They can’t stop themselves from linking social issues to the budget.

“This pulls the mask back a little bit on the Tea Party movement,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland. “Adding riders against Planned Parenthood and gutting the environmental laws indicate that the Tea Party is focused on imposing a right-wing ideological agenda on the country and using the budget as a vehicle.”

Whether it’s upholding the Defense of Marriage Act, trying to defund Planned Parenthood, or aiming cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Endowment for the Arts, NPR and even AARP, House Republicans are in a lather that occludes their pledges to monomaniacally work on the economy.

When Mitch Daniels, the Indiana governor and Republican presidential aspirant, dared to urge his party to “mute” social issues, he was smacked.

“We cannot repair the economy without addressing the deep cultural issues that are tearing apart the family and society,” said Andy Blom of the American Principles Project. The presidential hopeful Rick Santorum even posited last week that abortions might be breaking the bank on Social Security.

The snowball of social rage will speed up as we head toward 2012, given that the Iowa caucuses are dominated by social conservatives. Pawlenty, Barbour and Huckabee have already talked about vitiating the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Because independent voters considered President Obama too partisan in his debut, they shifted their loyalties — and swept in one of the most ideological and partisan Republican caucuses in history. Now Obama will get back some of the independents because he seems reasonable by comparison.

One thing independents like to be independent of is government meddling in their personal lives. 

By: Maureen Dowd, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 2, 2011 

April 2, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Democracy, GOP, Independents, Politics, Privacy, Republicans, Right Wing, Swing Voters, Tea Party, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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