So in reading the news this week, a number of events occurred that seem to have no real connection to each other but for some reason struck a common chord for me. Rep. Steven LaTourette, (Rep. of Ohio) announced his retirement. Tea Party and Sarah Palin-backed candidate Ted Cruz won the Republican Senate Primary in Texas. Rep. Mike Kelly, (Rep. of Pa) compared the implementation of the women’s health portion of the Affordable Care Act to Pearl Harbor and 9/11, saying the provision of contraception without co-pay for the disadvantaged was an equivalent attack on religious freedom here. And finally, ta-da! Some Democratic mayors have proclaimed Chick-Fil A not welcome in their cities in an unprecedented exercise of Federalism from the left.
Like Olympia Snowe before him, LaTourette made his decision to retire public, but unlike her, he did not try to couch his decision in any specific piece of legislation. Snowe was probably the most centrist of all Republican Senators (perhaps along with her Maine colleague Susan Collins who for now has not been blown away by her party’s winds of change). But amidst her thoughtful condemnations of obstructive and debilitating partisanship in the Senate that now threatens to make the Senate function more like a Parliament – exactly what the beloved Framers did not want – she also couldn’t resist taking a few parting pot shots at the method of passing the Affordable Care Act, and the non-passing of a Grand Bargain before Republican stalling led to a reduction in the country’s credit worthiness. At the time she claimed that the President wasn’t reaching out enough to the other side of the aisle, which was a pretty specious claim from her since she, as a centrist Republican, got more personal face time with the President than perhaps any other member of Congress Democrat or Republican. At least she’ll be going out a proven partisan having pandered a little to those cold winds of change.
LaTourette, no-one’s centrist, came though from the mold of legislator where compromise was part of the Democratic process. He was there to have his voice heard, and bend a few elbows. “A deal isn’t a horrible thing if you get 55, 60, 70 percent of what you’re looking for, and you have to find your way forward,” he said. At least that’s a statement from someone who understands that even though he represents his Ohio constituency, he has a national responsibility to participate in Government, and thus understands his constitutional role as the Framers conceived it. I’m only invoking the Framers because the extreme right self-rightously lays claim to protecting the Framers meaning of the Constitution as if it were equivalent of the ultra-religious laying claim to understanding God’s true meaning as dictated in the Bible. Given the fact that most of the Framers were Deists, and products of the Enlightenment, I would think that the idea of turning The Constitution into a religious document would have them turning over in their graves.
As for Steven LaTourette, he seems to be feeling that its his own party that’s driving him to an early grave politically. His own party is now not enabling him to do what he considers his Constitutional responsibility. So he’s leaving. I never thought that I’d be lamenting someone with as conservative a record leaving, and perhaps he will be replaced by a representative more in line with my own views. But even John Boehner, his good friend, is not happy about his leaving. Very soon Washington will be a very lonely place for Boehner without ANY voices of reason from his side of the aisle. If only Boehner were more of the kind of leader the Speaker of the House should be and has been in the past on both sides, more of the Republican newbies would have a healthier respect for how this country was intended to be governed. Instead, Boehner came into his position pledging to reform how the Speaker acted, pledging to reflect rather than lead his caucus. So, now, the man in the most powerful position in our government after the President becomes a follower rather than a leader of his branch. Oh, well, old-fashioned strong-arming is just not his style.
Funny how nothing at all gets done without any real leadership from both branches of government at the same time. The President might try to lead, but without any leadership in the Congress – that is, from both houses simultaneously – progress of any kind will be on hold. Many on the left complained often enough that this President, early on in the name of “reaching out” that he was slow on the uptake and could have employed some strong-arming himself. But to what avail? For a Republican caucus that want to make sure that this President has no forward momentum, this is the perfect state of affairs. Unfortunately, we better change our system of government to a parliamentary one if we want anything at all to be done at this point. With “the other side” just in opposition, all we can hope is that we always have the Executive and Legislative branches be from the same party (a de-facto Parliamentary system) if we want anything serious to be done. Our Constitution set up a different system, one that reflected deliberate government that took all sides into consideration, in short, by endorsing the idea of compromise. Would that all the sanctimonious proclamations of original intent took this original intent into account.
Which brings me to Mike Kelly. Dismissing a Constitutionally passed law because of a single issue objection, in this case the fact that contraception is merely covered without a co-pay (but not mandated) as part of The Affordable Care Act, he is willing to compare the law to an assault on freedom the likes of which we haven’t seen since 9/11 and Pearl Harbor, foreign attacks on our soil that resulted in the loss of thousands of lives. The comparison is not only histrionic, but deeply irresponsible for someone who is serving in the government of the entire United States and not just from the Principality of Erie, PA.
Yes, House representatives are there to represent their constituents, but such a red-meat statement is either only the personal opinion of someone who feels un-beholden to his/her job, or is only a ruse to keep his name in the news and thus seemingly important to those not really paying attention. Never mind that in totality the law he is decrying will provide health care and services that potentially save a lot of women’s lives in cancer screenings and the like. He might take issue with the law on its merits, or even that small portion of the law. But dealing with the merits would require some reasonable, thought-out alternative. It’s so much easier to pick on a personal, emotional issue because it deflects from actually having to think about any real world problem. In the end, he just doesn’t want any of his taxes subsidizing some girl from the bottom 30% to get the pill because he personally doesn’t believe in contraception. I might not personally believe that we should fund the salary of legislators like Mike Kelly any more, not because I disagree with his views but because I don’t really think he fully grasps the responsibility of his job, but I live in a representative Democracy and there are a lot of positions I don’t agree with. This idea that we should be parsing out taxes based on our own personal beliefs and couching that in the mantle of freedom and liberty is basically to deny that we live in a complex society with a myriad of views that somehow needs to be organized. That’s why we have government in the first place and not anarchy.
Again, “A deal isn’t a horrible thing if you get 55, 60, 70 percent of what you’re looking for, and you have to find your way forward,” Compromise is part of governing. If you’re not into it, quit, like Sarah Palin did and become a media talking head. I’m sure it’s an easier job. It’s no wonder that LaTourette feels he can’t deal with people like Mike Kelly because Mike Kelly is not interested in hearing, let alone listening to anyone but himself. Irrespective of whether I agreed with Kelly’s analogy to Pearl Harbor, or 9/11 or not, I’d be very suspect of his ability to engage in the whole shebang of governmental issues.
And it is in this comprehensive aspect to governing where Ted Cruz’s winning the Republican Senate primary comes into play. Coming out of eek gads Nowhere! – according to the media – because a Tea-Party endorsed candidate won against the Republican establishment of Texas (namely Rick Perry) itself held to high esteem by the Tea Party, Ted Cruz has hardly been coming out of nowhere. As a Harvard/Princeton educated Solicitor General for Texas who clerked for Chief Justice Rehnquist and has argued many a case before the Supreme Court, Ted Cruz was a well established presence in Texas. He is considered a conservative intellect, was a professor of law at UT. This in itself is interesting since all of his background puts him at odds with the Citizen/Patriot underpinnings of a Tea Party that has, at least during the bruising Republican Presidential nomination process has been racing to the bottom intellectually – witness Tea Party favorite Rick Santorum’s comments about higher education.
With his background, Ted Cruz seems hardly part of the anti-intellectual crowd, and, in fact, seems more part of the hated East Coast Educated Elite (liberal or conservative). Though he was backed by no less an intellect than Sarah Palin, I wonder what someone with his background would actually do once he would be elected to National office in the Senate. He might now be claiming that his primary goal will be a wholesale repeal of Obamacare, and might also be able to back his position up with reason (that’s the scary part!), but the educational tradition from which he comes points to dealing with the issues more from an intellectual rather than an emotional point of view. Plus, I would find it difficult for someone of his background not to consider the issues seriously. He might still come up with solutions I abhor, but at least I might be able to understand where he’s coming from. At least he might be interested in engaging. Yes, we don’t know anything about him really, but neither do any of the people who might feel he is one of them. My suspicion, in the end, is that he’s a lot smarter than what they want. They might be supporting on a single issue – Obamacare – but I doubt that is all he would have in his back pocket if he did get to the Senate. I also wouldn’t doubt if he might find himself after 6 years going the way of LaTourette, retiring because he found the discussion less than stimulating in the world’s greatest deliberative body. It’s the deliberative part that we, and they, are all forgetting about.
And so finally, and ignominiously, we come to the end of our pattern-finding with John Stewart’s skewering of the Democratic mayors going all High Noon against Chick-fil-A. There’s nothing more annoying when you see people from your own side making colossal fools of themselves and joining the noisy, sanctimonious crowd we’d rather make fun of. These Mayors, making pronouncements for their cities that a company is not welcome because of the personal views of it’s chief executive – not an elected official but a civilian like the rest of us – does what exactly? Are they trying to say they will fight the establishment of additional stores? Or will they try to run them out of town? Or will they sick the cops on them to shake them down so annoyingly that they’ll just pack up and leave because it won’t be worth the effort? In fact, none of these things will happen. There are a whole host of companies run by people who might personally disagree with Democratic Party positions, like Dominoes Pizza, or Carl’s Jr., or dare I say it, In-and-Out Burger – all anti-choice, but I don’t see anyone trying to run them out of town. So why Chick-fil- A? Why indeed? Better to concentrate on the amount of salt and fat in the sandwich, and claiming that the local hospitals can’t afford to cover the results of eating one. At least there are real consequences there. In the meantime, let Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy dig his own grave – in the American Way. People will vote with their feet. If Chick-fil-A is truly not the Boston way, for example, lack of business will cause them to close up shop, or in a long shot, cause Cathy to rethink going public with his personal feelings. Instead, these Mayors, in their zeal, created an issue for the right where non before existed. Suddenly a protest lead to the biggest sales day in Chick-fil-A history, fueled by fanatics who would stuff fast food down their gullets as an expression of personal freedom while being completely disconnected to how they will be paying the health care price for their protestations in the future. I can imagine a scenario when one of these folks suddenly finds himself without health care, finds himself suffering from high blood pressure, and waiting in a state supported emergency room all in the name of freedom.
Can we all just acknowledge we are part of society? Personal feelings have no business running business…or in running government. And I hate to have to say that about Dems as well as the Mike Kellys of the world.