Hypocrisy in action
What great fun it is to behold hypocrisy in action. This is one of those times. As the federal crisis grows more dire, with Republicans threatening to shut down the government on Saturday unless their slash-the-budget demands are met, let’s check in with the House members who rail against “big spending” in accordance with the tea-party mantra…while ensuring that the evil socialist lucre flows unabated to their districts back home.This has long been standard Republican practice, by the way. I saw it back at the dawn of the Obama era, in February ’09. There was much fulminating about the economic stimulus plan, even as the fulminators lined up to get their palms greased. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator, said, “I think it would be smart for South Carolina to take the money.” Sarah Palin, in the midst of her half term as governor, said that she was read to take stimulus money “on a case by case basis.” Georgia Republicans sent Obama a wish list of stimulus requests. A California Republican congressman, who had voted No on the stimulus, announced that he wanted funds for his district, “to make sure this money is spent properly.” And South Carolina governor Mark Sanford (this was pre-Appalachian Trail), said that even though he opposed all that big-government money, his stance didn’t “preclude taking the money.”Months later, of course, we had the spectacle of anti-Obama lawmakers boasting in press releases about the Obama money they had brought to their constituents (“This is a great thing for this county,” said North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, hailing Alexander County’s use of the stimulus money he had voted against); some of them even posed for photos with oversized replicas of the federal check. And today we’re witnessing a similar dynamic; right-wing rhetoric is all well and good, until it collides with the exigencies of the real world.For instance, as reported today, congressional freshman Jaime Herrera Beutler railed against the Obama stimulus when she was a candidate, and earlier this year she toed the tea-party line by voting for $61 billion in government cuts…but then it turned out that one of those cuts adversely affected the Port of Vancouver in her home state of Washington. The port was counting on $10 million for a rail project. So much for Herrera Beutler’s ideological principles. Now she’s working real hard to save that money; the port people say that she has been “incredibly receptive.” Apparently, socialism is just fine when it benefits the folks back home.Elsewhere, Illinois Republican congressman Randy Hultgren is scrambling to restore budget cuts that would adversely affect a science research lab in his home state. An Illinois colleague, Bobby Schilling, voted for budget cuts that would hurt rail projects in his district, but now he says he voted on principle only because he figured that the Senate would block the cuts anyway. And in New Hampshire, various Republicans who voted Yes for deep budget cuts subsequently decided to say No to the specific budget cut that would have canceled $20 million for a transportation project back home. So they’ve worked hard to restore that cut, to make it clear to their voters that the principled fight against socialism will be waged in all corners of the nation – except, of course, at the Piscataqua River, where the Memorial Bridge needs to be repaired.Meanwhile, with respect to that supposedly principled fight, it’s instructive to note (in the newly-released bipartisan NBC-Wall Street Journal poll) that while 68 percent of tea-party people want the Republican congressional leaders to stick to their guns and eschew compromise even if it sparks a government shutdown, a whopping 66 percent of swing-voting independents want the Republican leaders to compromise. This is proof, yet again, that the conservative hardliners are out of the mainstream and imperiling the GOP’s efforts to bond with the American middle.But, as key tea-party congressman Mike Pence made clear last night on Fox News, the non-compromisers aren’t interested in capturing the middle. Here’s how he put it, verbatim: “We’re trying – we’re trying to score a victory for the Republican people, for – for the American – for the Republican people – trying to score a victory for the American people, not for the Republican Party.”I believe that qualifies as a Freudian slip. What would Sigmund say?
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