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The Negative Consequences of Friendship
01-23-2013, 02:59 PM
Post: #1
The Negative Consequences of Friendship
Read the full article on the blog.

Congratulations Barack Obama! Your second inaugural was sublime and passionate, and the weather offered a beautiful, brisk day. But I'm thinking about poor William Henry Harrison in 1841, who spoke for two hours in the cold without a hat or coat during his inaugural. He died thirty-two days later, from complications of pneumonia.

His impulse of the ridiculous lives on in the attitudes of today's Congressional Republicans. They too have Harrison's meaningless tenacity and his willingness to ignore the impending damage. In this vein, the first bill the House will consider is one that cuts off the salaries of Senate millionaires.

Michelle Obama was right to roll her eyes. The Boehner-directed legislation that demands a budget resolution also raises the debt ceiling for three months. During his tenure, Boehner has turned the House into a legislative assembly line, passing versions of the same bills over and over, including the repeal of the Affordable Care Act thirty-four times!

Boehner's dysfunction is accepted as a part of the political game, the differences between the parties. It's not. The real difference between the parties is in their commitment to differences in ideology. The Republican positions are mistaken for policy, as variations of a broad approach to governing that reduces government spending and oversight. This persistent idea is absolutely contradicted over and over by the words and actions of Republicans themselves; their policies' common feature is its ideology of power, power in its worst and best cases, its hidden relationships, its strategies and paradoxes, its pursuit as the prize.

That's why the bill to temporarily raise the debt ceiling for three months has a provision to block the Senate's salaries unless it meets the House's demands. That's not about policy; it's a blatant, bruising bill that asserts power and challenges the Senate, dictating the terms and conditions they must meet, or accept a House-imposed-and-passed personal penalty.

Even a divided, smaller Republican party would have many tools left to further its drive for power. First, the Republican Party has well financed outside help. From organizations such as the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity to the Jim DeMint-headed Heritage Foundation to its large individual donors, Republicans have an ever-expanding cache of money to use to advance its pursuit. Too often, Democrats and progressives decouple money from politics after elections, without recognizing that for Republicans the funding cycle never ebbs.

Democrats also focus on single issues; Republicans tie each single issue to an expansion of power, pursuing in each bill greater fiscal or executive authority by legislation and legal remedies, accompanied by media campaigns. The thirty-four repeal attempts of the ACA is an example of their strategy. More than the repeal itself, the continual effort establishes the Republicans' right to repeal the legislation through the House, making their failed position legitimate in many minds. Democrats should have fought these dress rehearsals with more vehemence to avoid a precedent which could easily become a political benefit if the Senate were to shift.

Republicans no longer focus on state elections; instead they focus on the state. In South Carolina, the elevation of a one-term House member to the Senate drew no review from the press or senior members of his own party, including elder statesmen who had a wider range and longer careers in public service. As historic as was the appointment of an African-American to a Senate seat from South Carolina, the silence within the state that met the appointment was also historic. This appointment was an earmark. Achieved without a vote or dissent, it is an example of how a downsized Republican Party can still retain, leverage, and use power to advance its ends.

The other part of its ideology is money, especially public budgets. Louisiana's governor just cut the state's funds for end-of-life care, ending the benefits and lower costs of hospice that allow dignity with death. Bobby Jindal touts the public savings of $3.8 million for moving the dying away from family homes with family present. Yet the state's costs will rise as end-of-life care will be provided in hospital ICUs. So costs or savings were never the issue for Jindal; it was an exercise in power, to break the public will and destroy the public good.

The media coverage of Barack Obama is marked by a host of well paid professionals who are blind, ignorant and tone deaf to the ideology of power and money pursued by Republicans. The media concentrates instead on minor issues of attitude and feeling; it ignores public or private virtues. Remember these? Occupiers were smelly. So it was okay to strike them with rubber bullets and bully clubs and spray them with Mace. Tree-huggers gain the attention denied to vanishing, clear-cut forests. Food stamps were a part of irresponsible government, but the family budget withers with the raising price of milk.

The latest? The country has launched a debate over politeness: is Barack nice to Republicans?  Does he ask nicely for their cooperation? A reporter asked the President about his overtures of friendship during a press briefing.

Resist the futility of scaling the American happiness meter. As the President reminded the press, being friends with him can have negative consequences; he cited Florida's Charlie Crist. Barack, our President, was correct. Back-slapping doesn't advance the ball. Money and power does.
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