06-19-2011 by Linda S. Carbonell
One of the few actual events to take place at this weekend’s Republican Leadership Conference, was the presentation by Senator Jim DeMint of yet another “pledge” for candidates to sign. They are already expected to sign Grover Norquist’s no-tax pledge and the Susan B. Anthony List’s no-abortion pledge. DeMint wants them all to pledge that the debt ceiling will never be raised without significant spending cuts, caps on spending and passage of a balanced budget amendment. That the Norquist pledge makes the DeMint pledge impossible is simply lost on those who refuse to think past ideology or are incapable of seeing the cause and effect on our economy of the Bush/Cheney administration’s economic policies. DeMint, by the way, is the man who took personal responsibility for constantly renewing the Republican filibusters that killed almost 300 bills and stopped dozens of mid-level appointments. Making President Obama a failure has been the agenda since his inauguration.
The RLC, which drew far fewer participants than in the past, has the usual straw poll. Watching the shifting leads in the Republican hunt for a Presidential nominee is worse than watching the betting boards at a race track. One day, it’s Mitt Romney, the next it’s Ron Paul. Pawlenty leads in one debate, Bachmann in the next. But even if they don’t know who will be running, they are all agreed on one thing – Barack Obama has to go.
Haley Barbour, who dropped out of the presidential race, declared at the RLC that, “Our goal, our focus, has to be to elect a new Republican president next year. Don’t get hung up on purity. In this business, it is unity that wins elections.” That sentiment was echoed by Georgia delegate Linda Herren, who said, “It’s not about finding somebody who we agree with, but who the American people agree with. I can tell you, I won’t agree 100 percent with our candidate, but I will support whoever wins the primary. We have to beat Obama.”
Why? Seriously, why? The longer the Republican Party keeps saying “we have to make Obama a one-term president,” the more we should be demanding an answer to that simple question. And then demand evidence to back up the reasons they give.
Let’s take a few of their talking points.
“Obama has dramatically expanded government control.” Over what? Oh, yeah. He pushed a law that requires Americans to have health insurance, the same way the States of Hawaii and Massachusetts did. The same way every state requires auto insurance. According to the health law’s opponents, it takes away the individual’s right to not be insured and pass their unpaid health care bills on to those who do have insurance. It also denies companies the right to not offer health insurance to their employees to increase their bottom lines, and shift their employees’ children into Medicaid programs. Michele Bachman said that she personally knows a restaurant owner who is going to fire 10 people to avoid having to buy health insurance. Nice guy – put 10 people on unemployment, Medicaid and food stamps.
“Obama has increased government regulation.” Well, only in two areas – deep water oil drilling and the financial services industry. In oil drilling, there wasn’t actually an increase in regulation, there was a discovery that what few regulations did exist weren’t being enforced and inspectors were being bought off. So, the administration halted all deep water drilling until there were new inspectors and the 33 wells involved had been reinspected. It seems there was this little problem with one of those un-inspected wells 13 months ago. It blew it’s blowout protector and spewed millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.
Then there was that whole problem with the way in which regulations on the financial services industry had been stripped away by Republican administrations. The lack of adequate regulation and oversight led to that little recession we still haven’t recovered from. As Jon Stewart so eloquently explained, there was more money in the derivatives market than actually exists in the world. One hundred three people got their positions in the Forbes top 400 billionaires by forcing the foreclosures of millions of homes and tanking the stock market, taking with it millions of people’s 401k accounts. Companies like AIG and Goldman Sachs, along with hundreds of hedge funds, have so disastrously screwed up the global economy that whole countries are headed for bankruptcy, and not tiny little countries with tiny little economies, but Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Iceland.
On the other hand, in the realm of small business regulation, where changes desperately are needed, President Obama is trying to make changes. In this area, he is handicapped by the Republican control of the House and the Senate filibuster. Many regulations are in response to existing laws. Unless there is co-operation from the legislature, as in changing the laws so the regulations can be changed, nothing will change. Chances of the Republicans doing anything to help real small businesses that might make the President look good are somewhere between nil and the proverbial snowball in hell. And when Republicans talk about “small businesses” they are not talking about the Mom and Pop restaurant on Main Street or your auto mechanic’s shop. The legal definition of “small business” is based on the method of ownership, not size, so Cargill, which has over 130,000 employees, is a “small business.”
“Obama has shredded the Constitution.” Really? This one goes with the constant contention that President Obama never held a real job and was only a community organizer. He was a Visiting Law and Government Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School in 1991 and 1992, then became a Lecturer until 1996 and Senior Lecturer until 2004, teaching constitutional law. His absolutism about the Constitution is one of the things that irritates progressives about the President. Unlike President Bush, President Obama refuses to override the power of the Legislative Branch by issuing executive orders and using signing statements to void laws. What the Republicans, particularly the Tea Party end of the party, are talking about isn’t the Constitution. Many of the points they use to argue for less federal government are based in the failed Articles of Confederation, like Gov. Rick Perry’s contention that the States created the Federal government and therefore have precedence over it.
“Obama is in the pay of George Soros, BP, fill-in-the-blank-again.” Soros hasn’t made any major political contributions to anyone since 2004, and the other campaign contributions that Republicans cite were neither excessive nor illegal.
“Obama is a socialist/Maoist/fill-in-the-scary-blank-ist.” Aside from the “six degrees of separation to known socialists” hysteria on the rightwingnut blogs, talk radio shows and that television news network, the principle “evidence” they offer is the manner in which the Obama administration demanded stock in Chrysler and General Motors as surety for the bailout loans. They call it a “government take-over” of a private industry. Chrysler and GM called it a gift from heaven that made it possible for them to re-organize and re-build.
Once you challenge the statements and demand evidence, their accusations start to fall apart. What is left is the one thing they don’t want to admit to. All the rational explanations cover up the underlying message – he’s not one of us and is surrounded by lots of people who aren’t one of us. There is a list that is circulating on the web of every Jew in the Obama administration. Political candidates aren’t stupid enough to say outright that Obama has to go because he’s half African-American, but listen to the things they do say – about how he was really born in Kenya, how a father he barely knew instilled an anti-imperialistic Mau-Mau ideology into him, how he’s a secret Muslim. It’s all not-very-well disguised attacks based on the President’s parentage, not his real life experiences. The stories on the Web about his very Jewish staff are tied to the whole New World Order conspiracy depravity. They are scare tactics centuries old. Republicans have for the most part learned not to play the race card publicly, but they have honed the skill of playing it subtly.
The most frequently heard statement out of Republicans these days was voiced by Herman Cain during the RLC. “There is a sense of urgency for us to take this nation back.” That leads to the second best question to ask Republicans – who are you taking the country back from, and/or when are you taking it back to?