In a year of many horrific comments and acts of political misbehavior, we have a new winner for lunacy: the Pima County, Ariz., GOP’s move, in Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ district, to auction off a Glock 23, a gun similar to the one used to maim the Democrat and kill many others, as a fundraising stunt. If anything demonstrates the era of breathtaking insensitivity and partisan rancor more than that, I don’t want to know about it.
It almost makes the petty games in Washington, D.C., last week — when for the first time ever a chamber of Congress rebuffed a president seeking a joint session of Congress after the White House apparently failed to do its due diligence to set the date and time in advance — seem, well, petty.
And that they were. The excuse Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) offered for demanding a date change — that the first House votes were set for 6:30 p.m., giving insufficient time to ready the chamber for a 8 p.m. presidential speech — was especially flimsy, given that the votes were apparently on suspension matters. But that does not excuse the White House from failure to clear the date in advance.
My guess is that the administration’s choice of today was less about trumping a Republican presidential debate and more about avoiding a highly heralded speech during the opening game of the NFL season, especially because that game, Green Bay vs. New Orleans, will be a big draw (with far more of the viewers the president wants to attract than those watching a presidential primary debate.) Tuesday night, right after Labor Day, was a nonstarter, as was Friday night.
Today made more sense. But it is a minor matter in the larger sweep of things, except to the degree that it reflects a substantial lack of trust between the Speaker and the president, something evident especially after Boehner got cold feet and abandoned the grand bargain on the table during the negotiations over the debt limit.
That move led inexorably to the debacle over the debt limit that followed, and to the condemnation by Standard & Poors and by Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke of the unprecedented games played in the process by Congressional Republicans. And the debt limit shenanigans also have contributed mightily to the continuing economic malaise; surveys show that confidence in the system and optimism about the future took a major hit with the showdown, leading in turn to a drop in consumer spending, which further slows the economy and provides a major deterrent to businesses creating new jobs.
One might think an unprecedented cut in America’s credit rating, the unusually blunt criticism of the Fed chairman and economic turmoil might cause leaders who deliberately precipitated the confrontation over the debt limit to think twice. Nah. Here was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s reaction as expressed to Neil Cavuto of Fox News: “It set the template for the future. In the future, Neil, no president — in the near future, maybe in the distant future — is going to be able to get the debt ceiling increased without a reignition of the same discussion of how do we cut spending and get America headed in the right direction. I expect the next president, whoever that is, is going to be asking us to raise the debt ceiling again in 2013, so we’ll be doing it all over.”
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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