06-18-2011 by Linda S. Carbonell
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s spokeswoman Andrea Saul issued a statement concerning the anti-abortion pledge that all Republican candidates are expected to sign. The Susan B. Anthony List wields this pledge with almost as much power as Grover Norquist wields his anti-tax pledge – sign it or get dumped by the hard core GOP.
Saul’s statement read: “Governor Romney pledged in the last campaign that he would be a pro-life president and of course he pledges it today. However, this well-intentioned effort has some potentially unforeseen consequences and he does not feel he could in good conscience sign it. Gov. Romney has been a strong supporter of the SBA List in the past and he looks forward to continue working with them to promote a culture of life.” Saul went on to say that Gov. Romney is concerned about the manner in which the anti-abortion actions taken recently would “strip taxpayer funding from thousands of health care facilities” and would “strictly limit the choices” in health care.
The hard-right GOP likes to say that Mitt Romney is a flip-flopper. That is an insult just one step down from “moderate” in their book. The fact is, Romney is a realist. He didn’t govern out of a dug-in Republican position. No one can do that in Massachusetts and survive. He learned the art of compromise and pragmatism.
Romney is finding himself in the same situation with the hard-right side of the Republican Party that President Obama finds himself in with the hard-left of the Democrats.
Thanks to Lawrence O’Donnell, we had an opportunity last night to see some of the early sessions at the Netsroot Nation convention in Milwaukee. President Obama took a shellacking from the progressives. There was an almost endless chant of “he didn’t do this” “he didn’t do that” as though these progressives sincerely believed the President has some kind of magic wand and can change laws with a swish of his hand. Advocacy is a great thing. Advocates and activists can propel change, but only pragmatists and realists willing to make the hard compromises and choices actually create change.
It is easy for Republicans to look at George W. Bush and see someone who made changes unilaterally. They ignore the fact that much of what Bush “accomplished” was borderline illegal. At the very least, it violated the spirit of the Constitution by taking advantage of loopholes and powers the founding fathers never anticipated. Bush used the power of the executive order almost 300 times to set policies that had the impact of laws without having to get the laws written by the Congress. The executive order is supposed to be used internally for the operation of the Executive Branch. It is supposed to act in much the same way as a memo from the CEO of a company. Bush used it for things like cutting off funding for stem cell research, which had been approved by the Congress. Congress is supposed to have the power to determine how much taxpayer money goes to what programs. He used signing statements over 100 times to void legally enacted laws that limited his powers. He hand wrote words that said, in effect, “the Executive Branch will do what it bloody well pleases” on the bottom of over 100 laws. That effectively voided these laws without risking having them sent back to Congress to be overridden, the way a veto would have been. Bush used his power to dictate to the American people and deny them the representation they are entitled to by our Constitution. One can say this much for him, he kept his word. Bush once said that America would never be a dictatorship, unless he was the dictator.
Democrats have their own “git it done” hero in the late Lyndon Baines Johnson. Johnson pushed through some of the most important social programs in our country’s history. His Great Society agenda expanded civil rights and Public Broadcasting, established Medicare and Medicaid, changed immigration policies and environmental policies, provided vastly increased aid to education – the list is pages long. The programs and entitlements that the current Republican Party are trying to dismantle belong almost exclusively to Johnson. The how he got this done is usually ignored. It was more than just Johnson’s “forceful personality.” After a long career in the House, Johnson knew where all the bodies were buried. It has been rumored that Johnson held more information on more people in Washington than even the F.B.I.’s legendary director J. Edgar Hoover, including the fact the Hoover was a gay cross-dresser.
Obama is a believer in the Constitution. He has consistently refused to use the extra-Constitutional powers of the Presidency to get what he wants, deferring to the legal power of the Legislative Branch. That has frustrated the left-wing. To get most of what he wanted, President Obama has had to abandon some things, like the public option in health insurance. Romney understands the same principle – that getting things done in Washington sometimes means giving up the most ideological portions of an agenda.
The far right of the Republican Party – the Tea Partiers whose understanding of global economics could fit in a tea cup and the social extremists who have been rightfully nicknamed the “Christian Taliban” – are desperate to find a candidate to take over and dethrone Romney as the front runner.
The far left of the Democratic Party would entertain a primary challenge to President Obama if they could find someone willing to lead the fight. This is fundamentally short-sighted and useless. They are blaming Obama for not being Bush. Obama has spent three years head-butting another thing the founding fathers never dreamed of – the implacable power of the filibuster. Over 300 laws and appointments were deep-sixed by the Republicans who only needed one man to stand up and say “I object” to stop the bill cold, cutting off debate and votes on any law they thought would make Obama a successful president. The Democratic Party has so far been completely incapable of explaining this simple situation to their base.
If the progressives want their agenda fulfilled, they should be concentrating on increasing the Democratic presence in the Senate to reach filibuster-proof levels (that mean holding at least 59 seats outright, with Independent Bernie Sanders as #60) and regaining control of the House, preferably with more than the bare 218 needed to pass a bill. In both chambers, the greater the majority the better because there are too many “conservative” Democrats there already to assure support of more progressive bills.
As for moderates, independents, pragmatists – we’d be grateful if someone emerged who had the ability to explain to the general electorate the complex issues and practical realities of the world and our political system. The first candidate to hire Jon Stewart’s writing staff – those wonderful people who reduced the financial industry to eleven comprehensible minutes – would walk away with the election.