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FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 1, 2012
A BREAK FOR THE BROKEN
BY BOB FRANKEN
“Give me a break.” That was Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s scornful reaction to charges from Democrats that his party was again waging a “war against women.” At issue was the political imperative to prevent student-loan interest rates from doubling. Both sides claim that they agree the legislation is needed. Why wouldn’t they? After all, the youth vote is a big prize for both parties. So what’s the problem?
The problem is in the House, where the restive tea partiers and other GOP members want to extract the usual pound of flesh, from the usual place: You guessed it, from the Obama health-care law. That, says the D’s, means the R’s want to cut back on programs that support mothers and their children. Hence the new “War on Women” accusation, and hence Boehner’s contemptuous “Give me a break.”
A fuller look at the tape shows that he also snarled, “This is beneath the dignity of this House and the dignity of the public trust that we enjoy from our constituents.” Now, that begs at least a couple of questions: What dignity? And what “public trust.”
After watching more than a year of House of Representatives brawling that has stopped just short of violence, and taken the nation time and again to the brink of financial disaster, it’s evident Speaker Boehner is on shaky ground. How many polls do we need to see that Congress suffers from 90 percent disapproval? Their rating is below used-car salespeople, lawyers and even journalists. Truly the bottom.
What’s really unfortunate is that the speaker’s “Give me a break” demand can’t be granted. If there were only some way we could adjourn both the House and the Senate for the rest of the year. Then, instead of destroying the country, Congresspeople could go home and grovel full time for the money to finance their deceptions. It’s enticing, but impossible.
The student-loan mishmash illustrates the dilemma. Thanks to the Constitution, the squabblers of Capitol Hill are necessary to keep the nation operating. There are certain problems that we need them to solve. The basic one is to agree on funding the federal government. As always, some of the more radical rightists are threatening a government shutdown.
There will be some rough head-knocking before the two sides can agree on tough budget cuts and/or tax hikes that will prevent mandatory slashing of Pentagon spending, among other vital outlays. Somehow, it has to be accomplished in the poisonous swamp that is Washington, enveloped in an atmosphere that was already toxic before the campaign made it even more foul.
The Republicans have made no bones about their priority: “The single most important thing we want to achieve,” in the words of Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, “is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” They’re blatantly doing anything they can to sabotage whatever that comes out of the White House, worthy or not. About the only time they will grudgingly cooperate is when their resistance becomes political suicide. In other words, the actual “single most important thing” they want to achieve is their own re-election.
Yes, it’s really too bad we can’t simply send everyone home and say “See you next year.” Then our current elected officials could fight it out full time to determine just who it is we will and won’t see next year.
It would be lovely if we could even hope that once the election had passed with all its distortions and appeals to our worst instincts, that we would return to an effective federal government and tackle the overwhelming problems the United States must overcome to stop our slide. What’s unfortunate is that nowadays the ugly politics never cease. So, if anyone is promising the “dignity” Mr. Boehner described, let’s remember what he also said: “Give me a break.”
© 2012 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.