Dana Millbank, "A moderate's lament". February 29
IF you have tears, prepare to almost shed them now. Or ask your Doctor if a half-empty bottle of Restasis® is right for you:
WASHINGTON — The looming Senate vote on a Republican plan to give employers the right to withdraw health care coverage based on religious and moral convictions put Senator Olympia J. Snowe in a tough but familiar position: weighing her own views as a Republican centrist against pressure from fellow Republicans to support the party position.
A longtime advocate of increasing access to health care and one of a dwindling number of Republican backers of abortion rights, Ms. Snowe believed that the language was too broad and could have unintended consequences. At the same time, an embattled Republican colleague, Senator Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts, had publicly backed it, and a “no” vote from Ms. Snowe, of Maine, could isolate him as he sought to fend off anger in his heavily Democratic state.
Dear Lord, what have we done? Forcing a United States Senator to choose between voting her nit-picky conscience and chucking it all to symbolically aid the reelection efforts of a fellow Republican from a nearby state? Are we monsters?
Boy, there goes my beautiful dream, that someday in my lifetime the US Senate would be composed of Red State religious lunatics and Blue State moderate Republicans, and we could finally get something done.
with each day on Capitol Hill comes more evidence that the place is broken beyond repair — and that the last remaining vestiges of sense and moderation are fleeing. The latest blow came on Tuesday, when Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, one of the Republican Party’s last moderates, said she wouldn’t seek a fourth term because she sees no imminent change in “the partisanship of recent years.”
Also heading for the door is much of the remaining core of Senate moderates: Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas; independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut; and Democrats Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Jim Webb of Virginia. After that kind of exodus, Bennet will be one of the last reasonable lawmakers still standing. “I think that it should be a real wake-up call to people here,” he said. “There are a number of folks who don’t want to come here and participate in the dysfunction.”
This lament, by the way, is brought to you by Dana Millbank, whose regular job is piloting a clown car for the Washington Post.
One: what is losing Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and the late lamented Evan Bayh, compared to living in a society where those five are described as "moderate"? I'm really supposed to be excited because Hutchinson (R-Exxon Mobil) is pro-choice (and thus "principled")? I'm supposed to be aghast at the prospect of three more dilatory, war-flogging (and thus "principled") Democrats (I'm sorry, two Democrats and a guy who got lost on his way to the Knesset) who managed to block single payer, the solution to a major social and economic problem in this country, for the sake of their friends (and wives' employers) in the insurance and pharmaceutical businesses, being "forced" to join Evan Bayh on the sidelines, in the boardrooms, and at FOX? Somebody show me the major legislation any of these bozos crafted. Somebody show me the major legislation they proposed, only to be cruelly overpowered by rabid partisanship. All five ought to be thanking their lucky stars for our dysfunctional politics, which allowed mediocrities like themselves to set themselves up for life swapping tax breaks and special treatment for "campaign" contributions and a sinecure to be named later.
(Jim Webb, on the other hand, seems a decent and thoughtful fellow. But Webb really made it clear in 2008 that he wasn't going to be a career Senator. Snowe may be a step up from her fellow retirees, and an actual sponsor of real-world legislation, but is her real problem with the "tone" in Washington, or the constant buzzing her own party has been emitting since 1964?)
Which brings us to Two: th' fuck did these people imagine they were going? Were they informed ahead of time that the Senate is the "deliberative" body? Isn't that at least covered at Orientation? For fuck's sake, all but Nelson (and Bayh) sat in judgement of William Jefferson Clinton, and none got so disheartened at the tone of that he hung up his galoshes. None of them has spent an hour of adult life living in an America that wasn't politically divided. All are old enough to remember the Civil Rights movement firsthand. All the males (except Bayh) are old enough to have escaped service in Vietnam, which, of course, they atoned for by voting unlimited funds for Iraq. This country's divided, like it or no; that's reflected--as it's supposed to be--in our Senate.
You ask me, the problem is that we aren't divisive enough, that an entire current of political thought is largely unrepresented in the Congress, namely, that of people who don't game the system, and who think things ought to be fair. When we're pillorying them in the Senate out of excess partisanship it'll at least mean we have some.
And tell me, who gives a fuck if Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neil used to have a beer after hours? Only people who're warm and satisfied with the results of thirty years of Reaganism.
Which brings us, of course, to Three: the Republican party comprises the criminally insane, the merely criminal, and the religiously mazed. Untreated, ignored, faux-balanced--let alone rewarded--this has, to no one's surprise except people who earn their livings working in government, or watching and reporting on it, merely grown louder and uglier. The Democratic party won sweeping electoral victories in 2006 and 2008, based largely on the public's wish that this would put a stop to such excesses. (This is ample evidence, where none was needed, that the American public doesn't pay near enough attention.)
It didn't. The new Democratic majority quickly reassured nervous markets that it would never do anything so radical as to tax wealthy people again (the one aspect of the Gentlemanly, Peaceful, and Respectful 50s no one wants to return), or treat war crimes and high-level profiteering as moral enormities on par with blow-job reception; thus reassured, and unfettered for yet another decade, the markets responded by looting the world economy.
This is what the lamenters lament. The All-in-Good-Fun partisanship of Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay. The days when a man, and only a man, could clap Strom Thurmond or Jessie Helms on the back in bonhomie, without worrying about some internet riffraff bringing up their voting records. The days when the Congress could just laugh and shrug at Iran/Contra or the S&L disaster. It very well might be that it would take more Evan Bayhs to bring those days back. Or the last Ice Age, for that matter. I would like to point out to people who think that way that we in Indiana managed to find another lackluster Republican Lobbyist/Senator to take his place without too much fuss. Now please explain to me why, if you could snap your fingers and make the Senate more efficient, you wouldn't prefer to snap your fingers and make it ten times smarter instead?
Me, on the other hand, well, my one regret when people start gurgling this nonsense is that I have only two hands to clasp my wallet with.