Sunday, July 24, 2011

Taking “Yes” for an Answer

A famous New York sportscaster, after an abysmal local football team lost one of its games, once said the following: “Out of the jaws of victory, the Giants snatched defeat.”

Who knew that Jerry Girard was such an astute political pundit? More than thirty years after his snide remark, the Republicans have apparently decided to do the very same thing and, like that ill-fated football team, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Really now, let me see if I get this straight. Republicans have gotten over $3 trillion in spending cuts from the Democrats over ten years – the largest such slash in government spending quite possibly since the founding of the Republic – they’ve held onto the Bush tax cuts, which virtually every single economist has admitted have not produced the job growth that was expected and have cost the treasury $4 trillion in lost revenue since they were enacted, and all the Democrats – particularly Obama – are asking for in return is some additional tax revenues – somewhere between $800 billion and $1 trillion – that will largely be gathered through tax code modifications and the closing of loopholes. And the answer from the GOP to this largess is, “No thanks, we’ll pass.” A better than 3 to 1 ratio and they’re prepared to walk away from that? Talk about not being able to take “yes” for an answer.

I wonder what the Gipper would say to such madness. Probably not much. He’d be too busy bitch slapping Eric Cantor and the rest of the Republican / Tea Party caucus to have the time to give a speech. There is a time for principles, and then there is a time for action. When you’ve got a good deal in front of you, even if it isn’t perfect, you take it, lick your chops, and get the rest later. Of all the politicians of the last hundred or so years, no one understood that principle better than Ronald Reagan. And while I am certainly no fan of his policies, were he around today, I can tell you this much: he would’ve shook Barack Obama’s hand on such an offer and then proudly announced to the nation that he secured a deal that was in the country’s best interest, even if it didn’t have everything he wanted. And then, most of all, Reagan would sit down with his Congressional leadership and, in no uncertain terms, make it perfectly clear that this legislation would pass come hell or high water, and heaven help anyone who stood in the way. No was not an option. When Reagan wanted something from his Party, he got it. Period!

But that’s what real leaders do. They lead. Right now the leaders of the Republican Party are the inmates who seem to have taken over the asylum. Watching the GOP these days is like watching a giant chicken with its head cut off running towards the edge of a cliff. John Boehner has tried to be a leader, but, alas, the task is beyond him. Witness the power play between him and Cantor, who is now the de facto spokesman for the Party. Boehner might as well be a figurehead for all the good he has done. In deed his willingness to even discuss a deal with Obama has deeply wounded him in the eyes of a movement that sees compromise as a four-letter word. In the new world order that is the Republican Party compromising goes something like this: “We’ll agree to raise the debt, you agree to all our demands.”

The Republican Party has basically kidnapped the country and then had the audacity to say, “We’ll release you as soon as you pay us what we want.” And of course, in the event that they don’t get the ransom they demand, they’re not to blame if the hostage dies. Such convoluted logic is evidence of an extreme psychological disorder that is inimical to any hopes of constructive engagement and consensus building.

But then we’ve stumbled onto the real goal here, haven’t we? There was never any intent to work with the opposition on the part of the Tea Party. From day one they have made it abundantly clear that it was their way or the highway. They understood the midterm elections as somehow giving them a mandate to carry out their philosophical agenda, to ostensibly thumb their noses at the their opposition and, if need be, bring the government to a grinding halt. They proudly beat their chests and boldly pronounced what their intentions were. It was only our naïve optimism that held on to any hope that they would see the light and be reasonable. Clearly, all of us were sadly mistaken. Madness knows no reason. All it has is its delusional beliefs and aims.

And now it has come to this. Barely a week to go before Armageddon, and not only are they prepared to walk away from the deal of a lifetime, most of them don’t even believe in the enormity of the danger they are flirting with. Deniers to the end, they laugh at the face of certain disaster. Their heroes are the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin. They are so far removed from the Party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, it isn’t even funny. In deed it is tragic. Not even the ghost of Reagan can save this group from itself.

So here we stand. A nation is being held captive by a bunch of lunatics who not only have no intention of releasing us, they probably wouldn’t mind dying in the ensuing explosion of the ticking time bomb they themselves are prepared to set off.

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