Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Toilet-stall rhetoric

  Jeb. Jim. Ned. Fred. Chip. Jobe. Flip. Flop. Whatever your name, Mr. Well-Combed Congressman from Texas, you got schooled.

  President Obama got one thing wrong in his televised face-off with House Republicans. His last accuser was named Jeb — Jeb Hensarling — not Jim, as Obama mis-IDed him.

   Beyond that, a newly and truly combative president, one still able to flash a knowing smile, flat-out slayed 'em. One can only hope it begins a sustained counter-attack to convince Americans that they need to join the fight.

    Who's tired of ceding the floor, and the bull horn, to people waving racist placards and pretending that Sarah Palin is the face of America's future?

     Who's tired of the cheap shots about deficit spending from the very Republicans who bequeathed mountains of debt upon this land?

     Who happened to notice last week that when Obama proposed a bipartisan — you know, meaning "two-party" — commission to curb federal deficits, Republicans in the Senate rose to oppose it?

     Who noticed that a bill to impose a "pay-as-you-go" anti-deficit requirement comparable to that agreed upon by President Clinton and a Republican Congress, caused the Republican minority in this one said "no-go"?

      This reminds me of what I read in a toilet stall the other day. There in black marker, someone had borrowed words from a popular Tea Party bumper sticker: "So, how's that hope and change going for ya?" I'm thinking the author had been too long in the stall.

      What wisdom — high testimony for a movement that stands for absolutely no movement at all.

     Real anger was in Obama's eyes when Hensarling tried to hijack a Q&A with the president and make it a partisan PowerPoint about GOP fiscal austerity. Hensarling can claim to be a fiscal conservative, but he first should have been trying this pitch out his fellow Texan, George W. Bush, if he thought that escalating debt was a threat to the nation. As Obama pointed out, he inherited $8 trillion in debt, along with one of the worst economies since the Great Depression. To stimulate the economy, he got Congress to approve spending that, with interest, will add roughly $1 trillion to that debt.

     Obama pointed out that many Republican congressmen were quick to appear at ribbon-cuttings for stimulus projects they opposed.

      In Texas, they used to call that Grammstanding — the artform perfected by Sen. Phil Gramm. He would denounce federal spending and then be the first to the microphone to claim credit for new spending for his constituents. I don't think Hensarling would mind me mentioning that he was a Gramm protege. The prickly pear doesn't fall far from the tree.

     Oh, and now that Obama has proposed to freeze or cut several key federal programs? 

     This week the New York Times had a fascinating piece about Republicans who, always full-throat in Gramm-style denunciations of federal spending and Obama-style "socialism," were denouncing budget cuts  the administration now proposes.

     Don't cut NASA, said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. It employs people back home. Don't cut farm subsidies, said Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss. Don't touch our Missouri-based defense projects, said Rep. Jeff Flake.

     Obama continues to say he wants to work with these calculating partisans. Thanks to the fact that the GOP now has shaved a vote from the Democrats' super majority in the Senate, this will be necessary.

   But let's not forget that the people did, in fact, say they wanted change a year ago.

  If the party of Jeb, or Jim, or Ned, or Fred, or Jiff, or Dubya, is that — change — then maybe the author in the toilet stall is onto something.

   John Young writes for Cox Newspapers. E-mail: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.


No comments: