DEBT TALKS

Predicting the Future? Stewart Calls Out NJ Question to the President … From December — VIDEO

Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Aug. 2, 2011, 6:36 a.m.

Ex-MA Gov. Mitt Rom­ney (R) stumped for Gov. Butch Ot­ter (R) 10/6 “in an ef­fort to pump up sup­port among” Mor­mon voters “in south­ern and east­ern” ID.

Boise State prof. Jim Weatherby: “I’m not sur­prised Ot­ter brought Rom­ney in, not for his sup­port of a health care man­date in Mas­sachu­setts, but for his pop­ular­ity in east­ern Idaho. … (The Mor­mon vote is) a sig­ni­fic­ant factor in east­ern Idaho, where Butch Ot­ter has not run very strongly.”

Want More On This Race? Check out the Hot­line Dash­board for a com­pre­hens­ive run­down of this race, in­clud­ing stor­ies, polls, ads, FEC num­bers, and more!

Ac­cord­ing to busi­ness­man/event host Frank Vander­Sloot, act­iv­ist/ex-Har­vard prof. Keith Allred (D) “has been send­ing” Mor­mons “the mes­sage, ‘I’m Mor­mon, so vote for me be­cause I’m one of you guys.’” Vander­sloot: “My an­swer to that is, well, Harry Re­id is a Mor­mon.”

Ot­ter: “Mitt and I have very sim­il­ar value sys­tems, and I con­sider him a close friend and con­fid­ant.”

Allred: “It’s un­for­tu­nate that Frank Vander­Sloot wants to use re­li­gious and par­tis­an la­bels to dis­tract people from the ac­tu­al po­s­i­tions held by the can­did­ates. I stand for keep­ing taxes low on Idaho fam­il­ies and provid­ing a great edu­ca­tion for Idaho school kids. These are pri­or­it­ies that Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats, Mor­mons and non-Mor­mons alike sup­port. … It’s pre­cisely be­cause my pri­or­it­ies are res­on­at­ing so well with Idaho­ans that Butch Ot­ter has asked Mitt Rom­ney to ride to his res­cue” (Rus­sell, Spokane Spokes­man-Re­view, 10/7).

Even by Wash­ing­ton’s re­pel­lent stand­ards of cow­ardice and blame-shift­ing, the nat­ter­ing nin­com­poopery of the cur­rent se­quester de­bate as­ton­ishes.

Re­pub­lic­ans want you to be­lieve that the more than $500 bil­lion in across-the-board de­fense-spend­ing cuts over the next dec­ade is Pres­id­ent Obama’s fault. It was his idea, they say, and there­fore his re­spons­ib­il­ity as com­mand­er in chief to see that these meat-ax de­fense re­duc­tions — due to be­gin on Jan. 2 — don’t oc­cur.

Obama and his Demo­crat­ic al­lies in Con­gress, mean­while, act as if their hands are tied by diabol­ic­al GOP ob­struc­tion­ists who won’t let an al­tern­at­ive to $1.2 tril­lion in do­mest­ic dis­cre­tion­ary cuts (half from de­fense ac­counts and half from nondefense ac­counts) emerge to avoid po­ten­tially re­ces­sion-in­du­cing aus­ter­ity.

Tues­day on CBS, De­fense Sec­ret­ary Le­on Pan­etta, a former chair­man of the House Budget Com­mit­tee who un­doubtedly knows bet­ter, used the third-per­son plur­al pro­noun to make it sound as if this en­tire mess was the work of space ali­ens, the League of Shad­ows, Lord Vol­de­mort’s de­ment­ors, or crazed eco­nom­ists jacked up on Red Bull, Chee­tos, and Twizz­lers.

“They said if we don’t do this thing, we’ll blow our heads off,” Pan­etta told Norah O’Don­nell. “Well, now they’ve cocked the gun.”

They? Please.

It’s us. As in the United States.  

As in a pres­id­ent ne­go­ti­at­ing a bill with Con­gress, see­ing it passed, and sign­ing it in­to law. Ba­sic civics, people.

There is no they. There is no sui­cide gun. There are only choices and the will to make them. If every­one con­tin­ues to look for “they,” they will miss the “we,” and that will screw us.

Let’s re­mem­ber how this got star­ted. The debt crisis birthed the se­quester. House Re­pub­lic­ans vowed to re­ject any in­crease in the debt ceil­ing not ac­com­pan­ied by a dol­lar-for-dol­lar re­duc­tion in fed­er­al spend­ing. Obama fool­ishly thought they were bluff­ing, much as par­ents in the ‘60s doubted their re­bel­li­ous chil­dren would at­tend Wood­stock, hitch­hike to Haight, smoke weed, or take up mac­ramé.

Re­pub­lic­ans were not bluff­ing. They were con­sumed with the polit­ic­al im­per­at­ive to con­front the debt. They be­lieved it was im­port­ant eco­nom­ic­ally. They knew the voters who gave them the largest gain of House seats since the Great De­pres­sion de­man­ded not just ac­tion but con­front­a­tion. The tea party act­iv­ism had a ‘60s feel to it — con­front­ing the old power struc­ture (not just Obama, but George W. Bush, too) with street-theat­er protests, an­ti­gov­ern­ment signs, and a fe­ro­ciously self-right­eous voice.

Re­pub­lic­ans re­belled, and the power struc­ture could not com­mu­nic­ate with them — not the eco­nom­ists, not the in­dus­tri­al­ists, not the polit­ic­al sci­ent­ists, not the lob­by­ists, not the pres­id­ent. Oh, they were so un­reas­on­able. But they had a cause: tam­ing the debt, or at least erect­ing the highest hurdle ever seen to rais­ing it. No more brain-dead debt load­ing.

And in this, Re­pub­lic­ans suc­ceeded fab­ulously. They forced Obama to do what no oth­er pres­id­ent had: Link a pro-forma ex­er­cise of in­creas­ing the debt ceil­ing to bind­ing, dol­lar-for-dol­lar spend­ing cuts. In ex­change, Obama de­man­ded that half the cuts should come from de­fense if the star-crossed su­per com­mit­tee failed to find oth­er means to achieve equi­val­ent de­fi­cit re­duc­tion. Re­pub­lic­ans agreed.

It doesn’t mat­ter if se­quest­ra­tion was Obama’s idea or if he bar­gained for a 50-50 guns-and-but­ter di­vi­sion of cuts (he is a Demo­crat, after all). What mat­ters is that the law re­flects le­gis­lat­ive in­tent and polit­ic­al com­prom­ise — one set in mo­tion by Re­pub­lic­ans re­belling against the es­tab­lish­ment and the debt-bal­loon­ing ways of old. In that com­prom­ise, each swal­lowed the oth­er’s time-re­lease pois­on pill.

For a party that prides it­self on ori­gin­al in­tent, Re­pub­lic­ans are sud­denly suf­fer­ing a curi­ous bout of am­ne­sia. The se­quester and all its con­tours re­flect their ori­gin­al in­tent — one they per­suaded Obama to ac­cept.

Speak­ing of the ‘60s, let’s hear from Frank Beard­s­ley, Henry Fonda’s char­ac­ter in the 1968 movie Yours, Mine and Ours. It’s the story of a wid­ow and wid­ower who com­bine her eight chil­dren with his 10 and have two of their own. It’s a story of blend­ing fam­il­ies, jug­gling lo­gist­ics, and mak­ing scarce re­sources stretch — all un­der the con­stant fa­mili­al re­quire­ment of com­prom­ise. In one scene, Frank talks to one of his old­est daugh­ters, who is be­ing pres­sured to have pre­marit­al sex. He’s against it.

“Life isn’t a love-in, it’s the dishes and the or­tho­dont­ist and the shoe repair­man … and ground round in­stead of roast beef. And I’ll tell you something else: It isn’t go­ing to bed with a man that proves you’re in love with him; it’s get­ting up in the morn­ing and fa­cing the drab, miser­able, won­der­ful every­day world with him that counts.”

The ‘60s sens­ib­il­it­ies that coursed through the ranks of re­bel­li­ous Re­pub­lic­ans in the debt crisis forced the coun­try in a dif­fer­ent dir­ec­tion and forced new choices they are now for some reas­on pre­tend­ing they don’t own or have some re­spons­ib­il­ity to see through. While not ex­actly the same as some of the shirk­ing tend­en­cies of the coun­ter­cul­ture move­ment, there are par­al­lels.

Re­pub­lic­ans want to force the coun­try to choose ground round over roast beef and be able to an­swer how to do the dishes (FEMA, FAA, EPA, NRC, etc.), how the na­tion will pay for the or­tho­dont­ist (health care) and the shoe repair­man (boots on the ground). But to do so, Re­pub­lic­ans — and Obama — have to ac­cept the drab, miser­able world of $16 tril­lion of na­tion­al debt and four straight years of de­fi­cits in ex­cess of $1 tril­lion.

That is the world we live in. If Obama and Re­pub­lic­ans don’t like the se­quester, then soon­er or later they will forge an al­tern­at­ive. Act­ing like a child throw­ing a tem­per tan­trum and pre­tend­ing there’s no ac­count­ab­il­ity won’t work.

What We're Following See More »
CONGRESS BETTER GET ON BOARD
Mnuchin: Expect Tax Overhaul by August
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS
‘TOP OF THE PACK’
Trump Looking to Expand Nuclear Arsenal
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS
HAD ATTRACTED A CROWD TODAY
Alt-Right Leader Spencer Removed from CPAC
10 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
RECREATIONAL USERS
White House Promises Crackdown on Pot
11 hours ago
THE DETAILS
SAYS LEFT WILL GO INTO “MELTDOWN”
Cruz Predicts Another SCOTUS Vacancy “This Summer”
15 hours ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login