What About Bob?

Published: May 28, 2013

By Jim Lichtman
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One is the loneliest number…

…especially when you happen to be in a voting majority with your political colleagues, but those same colleagues are too timid to pull their extremist members back in line.

Senator John McCain took to the floor of the Senate last Thursday (May 23) to give some of his “colleagues” a much needed civics lesson.

Tea Party Senators Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are insistent that both Democrats and Republicans should not enter into conference negotiations over the budget unless Democrats agree in advance not to push for a rise in the debt ceiling as part of the talks.

McCain points out that those same Tea Party Senators are holding the negotiations hostage “unless certain conditions are imposed. Obviously that would paralyze the process,” McCain said.

Lee, Cruz, and Paul “have complained that conference negotiations amount to back room dealing, but as McCain pointed out, whatever agreement is reached is subjected ‘to an overall vote of both bodies’ of Congress. McCain suggested that governing can’t happen if the two sides can’t enter into negotiations, and in a reference to Lee’s claims about the debt ceiling, added: ‘maybe the senator from Utah ought to learn a little bit more about how business has been done in the Congress of the United States.’ ”

Here is the C-SPAN clip of Senator McCain. It’s all of two and a half minutes long. I can only imagine how many ways McCain tried, in vain, to reason with Lee and others before taking to the floor for the lecture of last resort. Sadly, no matter what he says, no matter how much plain, ordinary common sense McCain tries to drill into his Tea Party contemporaries the further the divide grows.

Even Republican Standard-Bearer-Emeritus Bob Dole took to the FOX News airwaves to call out the current Republican Party as so out-of-touch, they ought to post a sign saying, “Closed for Repairs. It seems almost unreal that we can’t get together on a budget or legislation.”

The Washington Post reported that Dole added, “President Obama also deserves blame for failing to reach out to Republicans in his first term and cultivate better relationships across party lines.

“Asked whether he would be welcomed by the Republican Party today, Dole said, ‘I doubt it. Reagan wouldn’t have made it, certainly Nixon wouldn’t have made it, because he had ideas. We might have made it, but I doubt it.’ ”

The Post went on to report that “nearly half of self-identified Republicans in an April Washington Post-ABC News poll said their party is ‘out-of-touch’ with the concerns of most Americans… And in a January Post-ABC poll, 67 percent of all Americans said Republicans in Congress were not doing enough to compromise with Obama on important issues, compared with 48 percent who saw Obama as too stubborn.”

While the president has been late to the party in getting together with Republicans in his first term, he has held luncheon and dinner conferences with many. Like Mr. McCain, many Republicans remain open. Sadly, too many of them lack the courage to stand-up against the very vocal Tea Party members: Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, or even non-Tea Partier, Marco Rubio.

“Mr. McCain,” The New York Times writes, “called the demands of his Republican colleagues ‘absolutely out of line and unprecedented.’ The Senate passed the budget before dawn on March 23 after a grueling all-night session, he noted, saying it was time to try to reach a final deal with the House in a negotiating conference.

” ‘Will this deliberative body, whether it is the greatest in the world or the worst in the world, go ahead and decide on this issue, so we can at least tell the American people we are going to do what we haven’t done for four years and what every family in America sooner or later has to do — and that is to have a budget?’ he asked.”

With political courage in short supply, it does not seem likely.

“The Senate has no intention of swallowing those cuts, so unless budget negotiators can meet and reach a deal, Congress will be headed back toward a crisis come Sept. 30, said Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the Senate Budget Committee chairwoman.

” ‘They could create crisis by having a government shutdown or holding everything back until November and threatening a debt default. That would be to their political detriment,’ Ms. Murray said. ‘I think the American people have had it with that kind of hostage-taking.’

However, Rubio “said that he was not about to give in, and that a single senator might have the power to hold back negotiations indefinitely. ‘I’m not sure this is an issue I can ever change my opinion on,’ he said.”

And what about Bob?

Citing the need for stronger leadership, Dole added, “Somebody has to stand up and say, ‘We’re not going to do this.’ ”

I grew up in an Eisenhower-Republican household. “You don’t lead by hitting people over the head,” Eisenhower said, “that’s assault, not leadership.”


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