I’m afraid the Republicans have misrepresented their sins. Their private conversations seem to be out of touch with their public stance. They are playing verbal hide and seek. Shouldn’t they really be telling the public—the American people who they claim to speak for and represent—what they are telling each other?
I wonder why Republicans are saying something different and closer to their hearts to each other than they share in news outlets in every American hamlet. And why, when they do share, elements of the story are often missing.
A January 2011 memo to Maine’s incoming Republican governor Paul LePage from his communications director and legislative liaison, sent to Maine’s top GOP leaders and the newly elected governor’s inner circle, certainly did not intend to be found out: “Once we take office, Paul will put 11,000 bureaucrats to work getting Republicans re-elected,” he wrote. The governor’s public stance, repeated as an offered promise during his campaign? “People over politics.”
The memo’s ripples jarred a spokesperson for Maine’s Senator Olympia Snowe to deny any knowledge of what seems to be the use of state employees as political pawns. In the Kennebec Journal, the communications director explained his email referred to “effectively enacting our agenda.” The memo breaks no laws. It was written before the governor or his staff took office.
At least Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown had a public change of mind. After “thanking God” that House Budget Committee chair and Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan presented a budget plan that Brown announced he would vote for, he then said in a POLITICO op-ed that he will vote against the Ryan plan, in part because: “I fear that as health inflation rises, the cost of private plans will outgrow the government premium support–and the elderly will be forced to pay ever higher deductibles and co-pays.”
Erza Klein published a recent column with eight common sense questions he wanted to ask and have answered by Paul Ryan about his budget proposal, especially on Medicare. Ryan could, if he chooses, use those questions as a take-home interview and provide written answers. He could put up a video, write an op-ed, or go face to face, having the unique benefit of the questions in hand. But even when the questions are advanced to him, he ducks.
On the other hand, first-term Congressman and Illinois Republican Joe Walsh never ducks. In a Daily Caller op-ed, Walsh, who once asked how many alligators it would take to secure the US border with Mexico, offered his blunt assessment of the positions of American Jews on Israel’s security: “too many American Jews aren’t as pro-Israel as they should be.”
Joe Walsh’s theory on the Obama election:
“Why was he elected? Again, it comes back to who he was. He was black, he was historic. And there’s nothing racist about this. It is what it is. If he had been a dynamic, white, state senator elected to Congress he wouldn’t have gotten in the game this fast. They were in love with him because they thought he was a good liberal guy and they were in love with him because he pushed that magical button: a black man who was articulate, liberal, the whole white guilt, all of that.” [emphasis mine.]
Yet David Brooks, writing in his New York Times column “Medicare Survival Guide” tells of unnamed Republican Congress members who whisper to him in dark corridors they want to save the country “in peril,” without committing “political suicide.”
Why is the choice between saving the country and electoral suicide? Where is the intractable conviction and courage Republicans fondly allude to when they discuss tax cuts that amount to corporate welfare while stifling middle class entry into business ownership because they seek to kill insurance transportability? (Under cover of Obama, they can all switch sides and be welcomed into the Democratic Party!)
After Democrats won a 2011 special election in a western New York district that voted 74 percent Republican the previous November (the sixth most Republican congressional district in the country!), losing with only 42 percent of the vote in a district that had been Republican for more than 40 years, Ryan’s assessment of the loss as a “couple million dollars and a Democratic acting like Tea Party candidate” doesn’t inspire any more confidence than his budget numbers.
The real unspoken point in the political hide and seek is that Republicans at the national level are now simply creating diversions and distractions as Republican state governors and legislators consolidate the politics of command and control at the resource-rich local level.
New Republican governors in sixteen states have shape-shifted from their campaigns, swiftly moving to dismantle barriers to standards in the environment and education, to transfer public funds to private firms without oversight or guaranteed returns, to block ballot access, dismantle programs for women’s health, and to give themselves new powers that are unchecked and absolute.
Some restrictions are micro-managed control, others are seismic. In Ohio, reporters were only allowed to bring pens, notebooks, and recorders to the governor’s budget release event, for example. No video feeds were allowed.
Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin turned down money for building infrastructure for future high-speed rail, guaranteeing jobs now and laying the groundwork for economic progress in the future.
Environmentally, Maine wants to open up 3 million acres of its North Woods for development as a part of the governor’s 63-point plan to remove state environmental protections. Florida is taking the lead in rolling back public funds used for land conservation and protection; its Everglades are in danger. In New Jersey, the governor has said the legislative act that protects 800,000 open acres near the state’s supply of fresh drinking water is “an infringement on property rights.” In Iowa, the governor is overseeing a transfer of regulatory controls to departments serving the industries they will now be in charge of regulating. Among the areas affected will be environmental protections, safe drinking water, and clean air. Continue reading Digging Deeper: When Politics Plays Hide and Seek