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October 31, 2012


Ezra Klein writes in the Washington Post today that the Boehner/McConnell strategy has worked. The strategy? Refuse to cooperate with the president so that nothing gets done and then blame the president for not working with congress. The plan then goes on to spend big ad money in the media pointing out that Mitt Romney was able to work “across the aisle” as governor of Massachusetts and that he will be able to work “across the aisle” as president, thus ending the gridlock in Washington to the benefit of all.

Newspapers in Orlando and Des Moines have used “the president cannot work with congress theme” as central to their endorsement(s) of Romney. Their respective editorial boards did not consider the background for such a claim by Boehner and McConnell, who were leaders in obstructing any and every thing the president presented to them for their consideration. Their refusal as legislators to legislate was, as will be seen, a mere campaign ploy, and one that has even more greatly damaged the standing of congress in the minds of the American public as its approval rating nears single digits, far lower than the approval rating of the president.

The most glaring omission in the Boehner-McConnell spin of how Romney can work “across the aisle” with the congress because he has proven he can work “across the aisle” with Democrats when he was governor of Massachusetts is that there was no “aisle” to work across in Massachusetts when Romney was governor. HIS LEGISLATURE WAS 87% DEMOCRATIC! The Boehner – McConnell myth that Romney can work “across the aisle” they are spinning to editorial boards of newspapers across the land is just that – mythology. It does not describe Romney’s experience in Massachusetts at all. It is made up from thin air. It is false and its assertion to be true should be beneath the dignity (if any) of the Boehner-McConnell spinmeisters. The truth is that Romney did not work “across the aisle” with Democrats in Massachusetts; he walked “down the aisle” with them in a political marriage in which he had no choice.

With such a supermajority of Democrats in the legislature, Romney had no alternative other than to walk DOWN THE AISLE with the Democrats, not work ACROSS THE AISLE with them. It was a forced marriage; Romney was a paper tiger with no veto power. Any initiative the Democrats put forth for his consideration, if vetoed, could easily be overridden. With such overwhelming numbers, Democrats were in de facto charge of the governor’s office in everything but name. He could call no shots; he was powerless in every political sense, from proposing legislation to signing whatever the legislature sent to his desk. He was (without the power of a veto or the threat of one) a rubber stamp. (Parenthetically, I find it interesting that he is now 30 points behind among the people who know him best, those who live in Massachusetts. What do they know that we should know?)

For instance, in the real world without spin, the health care plan he takes credit for in Massachusetts was not his – it was a health care plan of the Massachusetts legislature. The truth is that he had to walk “down the aisle” with Democrats. He was chief executive without power, relegated to kissing babies, opening shopping malls and giving speeches to drunken conventioneers, as big city mayors do. If there is anyone reading this who thinks that Romney had much to do with the health care plan in an 87% Democratic legislature other than to sign it (his veto would have been overridden within minutes), then they should apply for admission to the spin club sponsored by those great obstructionists, Boehner and McConnell, who would rather bring down a president than serve their country.

There are many other good reasons to reject the obstructionist spin of the Republican leadership and their tea party henchmen (and women), and one that needs discussion. In the law we object when our opponents try to put facts in the record that are not in evidence. Assumptions, for instance, are not facts, yet that is what the Republican spinmeisters are urging on us as evidentiary truth.

For instance, they are telling us that Romney will work with Democrats across the aisle if elected. They cannot know that. What if he is met with the same Democratic obstructionism that the president has had to contend with for the past nearly four years from Republicans who valued politics over country? We are going to have a Democratic Senate after next Tuesday (and possibly a Democratic House), and even should both bodies be controlled by Republicans after next Tuesday, who is to know that Democrats will not take a page out of the Republican playbook and obstruct every initiative Romney proposes? There are many parliamentary maneuvers (notably the filibuster in the Senate) which could be employed to frustrate a Republican majority from its goals of further enriching the already rich and cheerleading the ongoing destruction of the middle class. Spin is not evidence, especially when based on assumption.

How are we going to function as a democratic nation state if we are so petty that we would rather institutionalize gridlock as our modus operandi in the process of governing than give up a political position? It is the equivalent of the story of Nero’s playing the fiddle while Rome burned, and I think we had better agree to govern for the good of the country and put our political positions on hold for a while, if not permanently.

Doesn’t anyone believe in compromise anymore? It is not an inherently evil term. The Constitution itself is the product of compromise reached among our Founders. For a host of good reasons (one of which is social cohesion) we Democrats and Republicans had better start thinking in such terms and acting like the Americans we are, otherwise our Republic could be at risk. So we disagree? So did the Founders, but they compromised their differences and came up with a document for the ages. We should do the same, and soon. We have big and unresolved issues to resolve, so let’s get to work.  GERALD  E

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