An item in The Onion has been making the rounds in lefty circles. "Obama's Declaration Of Swine Flu Emergency Prompts Pro-Swine-Flu Republican Response" has the GOP taking the H1N1 advocate position, because the president is against it. "Thousands of Americans -- hardworking ordinary Americans like you and me -- already have H1N1," RNC chairman Michael Steele says. "Now Obama wants to take that away from us. Ask yourself: Do you want the federal government making these kinds of health care decisions for you and your family." Bobby Jindal urges Louisianans to stop washing their hands and Rush Limbaugh "made a point of dying of the virus during his show on Wednesday."
The reason that liberals are sharing this one paragraph "News in Brief" spoof is that it's really not that far outside the realm of possibility. As I've said more times than it's possible to link to here, the GOP has become a party of kneejerk reactionaries, whose first and often only impulse is to oppose anything that Democrats think might be a good idea. I often put it this way; Republicans' only principle is that Democrats are always wrong. Other than that, they don't really stand for much anymore. Look at the healthcare debate. Democrats want a public option, but the GOP was against that. So they floated the idea of co-ops instead of a public option and Republicans were against that too. A trigger? Nope. Opt-out? Nope. By default, the party took the position of defending an unsustainable healthcare "system" rapidly heading straight for a cliff. As stubborn and unbudgeable as the symbol of the other party, they planted their butts in the road like jackasses and refused to move forward, backward, left, or right. As a result, congressional Republicans are enjoying the lowest approval ratings in at least a decade. It may be that its the old habit of escalating a failing strategy that's driving them to continue this campaign of contrariness or may just be that they have no idea what else to do, but we've gotten to the point where The Onion's satire is only barely satirical.
Harry Reid takes a lot of lumps on this blog, but when he nails it, it deserves repeating. In a floor speech to the Senate, Reid addressed GOP obstructionism yesterday (note to avoid confusion, Reid refers to "Madame President" because he has to hand over the gavel to make a floor speech. He's referring to the Senate's President pro tempore):
M. President, perhaps those watching and listening think this [60 votes needed to pass everything] is how the Senate always operates. It is not. Allow me to put these delays in context:
The Senate has confirmed 366 of President Obama’s nominees. How does this compare historically? At this point in President Bush’s first term, 421 of his nominees were already at their desks. At this point in President Clinton’s first term, 379 nominees were on the job. And 480 of President Reagan’s nominees were confirmed. But Senate Republicans have only allowed President Obama 366.
In fact, in the first four months of the Bush Administration, when the Senate was controlled by the president’s party and we were in the minority, there wasn’t a single filibuster of a Bush nominee. Not one.
But in the first four months of the Obama Administration, Republicans filibustered eight of his nominees. That means that President Obama faced twice as many filibusters of his nominees in his first four months as President Bush faced in his first four years.
Imagine what would've happened if Bush faced this. Republicans would've been on FOX clawing their eyes out over it. It would be the worst thing ever. Limbaugh would've blub-blub-blubbed into his gold-plated microphone until his head exploded. Bill O'Reilly could've been identified as the man with the perpetually red face. Sean Hannity... Well, I don't know if it's possible for Hannity to be more hyperbolic and insane, but I'd be willing to bet he'd have given it a good try.
We got an idea of how this was going to go right off the bat, when Obama said that Guantanamo would close. Republicans freaked out that Obama would even consider putting terrorists in American prisons. Terrorists are magic, the argument seemed to go, and no prison could possibly hold them -- unless it was made out of chainlink dog kennels from Home Depot and put in Cuba. Then there's no way they could escape. Democrats joined in on this idiocy and Harry Reid (yeah, we're done saying nice things about Harry for now) accused Obama of wanting "terrorists to be released in the United States."
Yay for bipartisanship!
Luckily, there are things that are just too stupid for even Democrats like Reid to join in on. And Sen. Al Franken found one. Franken introduced an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations barring the hiring of contractors who force employees to keep rape charges out of court through arbitration. The legislation was in reaction to the case of Jamie Leigh Jones, who was gang-raped by fellow Halliburton/KBR employees, locked in a storage container, and told that if she ever told anyone about it, she'd lose her job.
Republicans argued against the amendment, saying it was just some sort of political witchhunt against Halliburton. But the truth is that, since a Democrat introduced it, they had to be against it. No matter how just or common sense it is. Having voted to cut off federal contracts with ACORN over bad tax advice the organization gave, they were now arguing that the federal government had no right to fire contractors. In their defense, not every Republican voted against this measure -- just most of them. Once the smoke had cleared, 30 Republicans had voted against allowing rape victims to have their day in court.
In response to GOP obstructionism, Ezra Klein writes, "The country really would be a better place if Democrats had let Bill Frist invoke the nuclear option and begin the project of blowing up the filibuster." His tongue's in his cheek (I think), but this strikes me as exactly wrong. When you're in the majority, the filibuster is the worst thing ever. But when you're in the minority, it's a different story. What we need are people doing what Harry Reid did (we're back to saying nice things about Harry again). Republicans are doing this sort of thing every goddam day and someone needs to point it out every time they do it. Republicans have become nihilist, with no core principles other than regaining the majority. Democrats need to point that out every time they talk to a reporter or face a news camera. They need to keep saying it and keep saying it and keep saying it until the media finally picks up on the message. This is what Republicans do to get their crazy-assed conspiracy theories in the headlines -- Democrats should do the same to get the truth in the headlines. "Republicans are blocking everything" should come in a close second to "good morning" in every Democrat's daily vocabulary.
Government can't work this way.
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