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Declaring Loyalties: Sex And Violence On Capitol Hill

(Warner Bros./via AP) - Searching for a theme in the debt debate, the Republicans settled on honor among thieves.

The time has come in the debt-limit fight for all Americans to declare their loyalties: Are you with the bank robbers, or are you with the dirty old men?

This unpalatable choice is as good a way as any to frame the debate in these last days before the default deadline.

On one side are House Republican leaders who, facing a rebellion of Tea Party conservatives, appealed for party unity by screening for members a clip of the 2010 film “The Town,” in which Ben Affleck’s bank-robber character tells the Jeremy Renner character: “I need your help. I can’t tell you what it is, you can never ask me about it later, and we’re gonna hurt some people.” Renner replies: “Whose car we takin’?” The clip ended before the shooting and beatings that followed.

On the other side are House Democratic leaders, who had to decide how to handle Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.), accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward a teenage girl (he claims it was consensual). Wu, who previously attracted attention by sending staff members photos of himself in a tiger costume, had no choice but to resign. But leaders accepted his plan to stay on the job for the debt standoff, thereby giving them one more vote against Speaker John Boehner’s debt plan.

It’s hard to decide which wins the craven crown: Exhorting colleagues by playing for them a call to criminal violence? Or trying to thwart the opposition by tolerating a 56-year-old colleague accused of forcing himself on a friend’s daughter?

Both are evidence of how desperate the warring parties are for any fleeting advantage in the fight. Someday, Democrats may rue wooing Wu to stay with them for the budget votes, and Republicans may do penance for embracing Hollywood violence. But this is not that day.

In the Democrats’ case, Wu’s grace period was a matter of arithmetic. Without him, Boehner would need 216 votes to pass his budget-cutting plan; with him, Boehner needs 217. And so Wu released a statement that he would “resign effective upon the resolution of the debt-ceiling crisis.”

That’s a delay Democrats are apparently comfortable with, even though this was not the first time this tiger has prowled: He was disciplined in college after a woman accused him of trying to force her to have sex, the Oregonian newspaper reported several years ago.

At a news conference Wednesday, I asked Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairman, whether she thought Wu should go sooner — and she demurred. “I think he made the right decision to resign,” she said.

The Republicans’ problem is more complicated. Though he has made few concessions, Boehner is facing a chorus of criticism from Tea Party activists who think he has not been belligerent enough. At a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor on Wednesday, the co-founders of the influential Tea Party Patriots network said a poll of their supporters found 82 percent of them dissatisfied with House leadership and 74 percent inclined to see Boehner replaced.

One of the co-founders, Mark Meckler, called Boehner’s proposed budget cuts “phantom” and “fake.” Later in the day, the leader of a smaller group called Tea Party Nation called for Boehner to be ousted. And staffers for conservative lawmakers rallied interest groups to fight against Boehner’s plan.

To resist such pressure, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) thought the proper tone would be Affleck’s crime thriller, packed with sex, drugs, violence and profanity, and described by USA Today as having “murky morality.”

The selection evidently had the desired effect. After the clip, in which the Renner character asks whose car they’ll drive, Rep. Allen West (Fla.), a Tea Party favorite, announced to his colleagues: “I’m ready to drive the car!”

Over the next 24 hours, conservatives’ resistance to Boehner’s plan ebbed, and Wednesday morning, Rep. Louie Gohmert (Tex.), one of the few remaining holdouts, emerged from a caucus meeting feeling the pain McCarthy promised. “I’m a beat-up ‘no,’ ” he reported.

Democrats pretended to be offended by the film selection. “They could have used ‘Hoosiers,’ ‘Rudy’ or ‘Band of Brothers,’ ” protested Wasserman Schultz (the person would-be getaway car driver West called “vile” and “not a lady”). “Now is not the time to be thinking about putting the political hurt to the other party or the president.”

But Republicans have a defense. That effort to “hurt people” in “The Town” was planned as revenge on men who had hassled a young woman.

David Wu might want to take that as a warning.

July 29, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democrats, GOP, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Big Government Bailout Worked

Don’t expect to see a lot of newspapers and Web sites with this headline: “Big Government Bailout Worked.” But it would be entirely accurate.

The actual headlines make the point. “Demand for fuel-efficient cars helps GM to $3.2 billion profit,”declared The Post. “GM Reports Earnings Tripled in First Quarter, as Revenue Jumped 15%,” reported the New York Times.

Far too little attention has been paid to the success of the government’s rescue of the Detroit-based auto companies, and almost no attention has been paid to how completely and utterly wrong bailout opponents were when they insisted it was doomed to failure.

“Having the federal government involved in every aspect of the private sector is very dangerous,” Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) told Fox News in December 2008. “In the long term it could cause us to become a quasi-socialist country.” I don’t see any evidence that we have become a “quasi-socialist country,” just big profits.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) called the bailout “the leading edge of the Obama administration’s war on capitalism,” while other members of Congress derided the president’s auto industry task force. “Of course we know that nobody on the task force has any experience in the auto business, and we heard at the hearing many of them don’t even own cars,” declared Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) after a hearing on the bailout in May 2009. “And they’re dictating the auto industry for our future? What’s wrong with this picture?”

What’s wrong, sorry to say, is that you won’t see a news conference where the bailout’s foes candidly acknowledge how mistaken they were.

The lack of accountability is stunning but not surprising. It reflects a deep bias in the way our political debate is carried out. The unexamined assumption of so much political reporting is that attacks on government’s capacity to do anything right make intuitive sense because “everybody knows” that government is basically inefficient and incompetent, especially when compared with the private sector.

Government failure gets a lot of coverage. That’s useful because government should be held accountable for its mistakes. What’s not okay is that we hear very little when government acts competently and even creatively. For if mistakes teach lessons, successes teach lessons, too.

In the case of the car industry, allowing the market to operate without any intervention by government would have wiped out a large part of the business that is based in Midwestern states. This irreversible decision would have damaged the economy, many communities and tens of thousands of families.

And contrary to critics’ predictions, government officials were quite capable of working with the market to restructure the industry. Government didn’t overturn capitalism. It tempered the market at a moment when its “natural” forces were pushing toward catastrophe. Government had the resources to buy the industry time.

What’s heartening is that average voters understand that broad assaults on government provide better guidance for the production of sound bites than for the creation of sensible public policy. That’s why House Republicans are backpedaling like crazy on their plans to privatize Medicare — even as they pretend not to.

Conservatives really believed that voters mistrusted government so much that they’d welcome a chance to scrap Big Government Medicare and have the opportunity to purchase policies in the wondrous health insurance marketplace. Don’t people assume that anything is better than government?

But there were deep potholes on the road to a market utopia. Put aside that the Republican budget wouldn’t provide enough money in the long term for the elderly to afford decent private coverage. The truth is that most consumers don’t have great confidence in the private insurance companies, with which they have rather a lot of experience.

When it comes to guaranteeing their access to health care in old age, most citizens trust government more than they trust the marketplace. This doesn’t mean they think Medicare is without flaws. What they do know is that Medicare does not cut people off in mid-illness and that its coverage is affordable because government subsidizes it.

It’s axiomatic that government isn’t perfect and that we’re better off having a large private sector. It ought to be axiomatic that the private market isn’t perfect, either, and that we need government to step in when the market fails. The success of the auto bailout and the failure of the Republicans’ anti-Medicare campaign both teach the same lesson: The era of anti-government extremism is ending.

By: E. J. Dionne, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 8, 2011

May 9, 2011 Posted by | Big Government, Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Health Care, Jobs, Journalists, Labor, Media, Medicare, Politics, President Obama, Press, Pundits, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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