Friday, May 13, 2011

Too late for bi-partisanship?

This week 42 Republican freshman members of Congress sent a letter to the President pleading with him to restrain Democrats from attacking Republican plans to trim Medicare spending. Evidently these representatives are scared that Democratic criticism of their vote for the Ryan budget are scaring voters away from Republican positions. How ironic, considering that many of these freshman legislators rode into office last fall based on scare tactics of their own, claiming that the Health Care reform act was a government takeover of health care, would create “death panels,” and would lead to cuts in Medicare spending. Once the Republicans took control of the House, they immediately enacted their own, much more drastic cuts in future Medicare benefits. They were apparently surprised to find out, when they went home to their districts, that these proposals were not all that popular with their constituents.

Naturally, the reaction of many Democrats to these Republicans' belated pleas for civility descends to the level of childish taunts such as "boo hoo" or "you can dish it out, but you can't take it." (Krugman has a good piece on this story also.) But I would urge the President to take a serious look at this proposal. After all, the President has been urging such a spirit of bi-partisanship for years. He should welcome this suggestion from the opposition. One condition, though. Remember the famous line from Adlai Stevenson, who proposed the following deal with Republicans: “If the Republicans will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them.”  If we are going to proceed to discuss budget and spending issues without engaging in unfair attacks on each side's proposals, President Obama should insist that the Republicans accept Stevenson’s modest terms.

9 comments:

  1. Almost 300 words and only 36 of them in a bipartisan spirit:

    "But I would urge the President to take a serious look at this proposal. After all, the President has been urging such a spirit of bi-partisanship for years."

    Here's what I would say: "If the Democrats and Republicans will stop telling lies about eachother, we may actually get something done in Washington".

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  2. My comments are more bi-partisan than most of the commentary I have seen on this story. But I don't especially feel bi-partisan on this issue, and I don't think everything can be excused by saying, both sides do it. There is no equivalence here. This story is a perfect illustration of Stevenson's quote, because last year's Republican campaign attacks on health care reform were mostly based on lies, while the Democratic attacks on Paul Ryan's budget plan are factual.

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  3. << Republican campaign attacks on health care reform were mostly based on lies, while the Democratic attacks on Paul Ryan's budget plan are factual. >>

    Do you see the two parties like two children; where one child is poorly behaved and lies to the parents about the other child? The other child is wiser, decent and honest?

    Too often (not always), that's the impression I get from both the far right and far left. They both believe they are the wise and decent child and are treated unfairly by the other. It would be humorous if it weren't so frustrating. The health care reform example is a perfect one!

    The reality is that both kids take turns misbehaving and the parents are left to sort it out. Being kids, neither child wants to share or see the others point of view.

    Maybe this is where the over used phrase "lets have an adult conversation" comes from.

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  4. I agree with you to the extent that both sides in political debates tend to act childishly, and have a hard time seeing the other side's point of view. But what your cynical view does not take into account is that sometimes one or both sides is actually proposing a solution to a problem in good faith, and sometimes criticisms of the other side's plan are justified.

    Now in this case Paul Ryan may actually believe in good faith that if we cut people's Medicare benefits and give them a voucher for private health insurance, that they will actually be able to find private health insurance for a reasonable price (even though the insurance industry doesn't seem all that interested in most of the Medicare market). But what makes the Republicans who voted for the Ryan plan think they should be immune to criticism for it, especially when they were the ones making highly unfair attacks on the health care reform act last year?

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  5. Here is what else I would say: It is not childish for the Democrats to fight back with everything they have against the Republican plan to privatize Medicare. If they want to stay true to their principles, this is where they have to draw a line in the sand.

    And I'm sure the Republicans could say that it's just as important for them to draw a line in the sand against the creeping socialization of the entire health care system.

    So it's a real debate, and a necessary debate. And when it gets childish, guess who gets to act like the adult and try to arrive at a consensus decision? Which is why I think it's ok for the Republicans to be appealing to the President to try to enforce a more civil debate. To me, that is a tremendous sign of success for the President's whole governing philosophy. But I also think it's ok to mock the Republicans a bit for doing that, in light of their past behavior.

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  6. << what makes the Republicans who voted for the Ryan plan think they should be immune to criticism >>

    I think both parties expect constructive criticism. However the type of statement << Republican campaign attacks on health care reform were mostly based on lies, while the Democratic attacks on Paul Ryan's budget plan are factual. >> is not constructive or accurate.

    Yes, there were childish comments and exaggerations by some on the right, but most arguments were legitimate concerns. Just as most criticisms from the Dems about Ryan's plans need to be discussed.

    I don't have enough space here to list things in the health care reform that were hidden or come as eyebrow raising news to us -- starting with the 1300 waivers given to unions and multi-million dollar corporations.

    I don’t think I am cynical. I think I am open minded. My point -- one child is not the good child. They both are a mixture of their parents. They both have ideas they think are good ones and the both misbehave.

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  7. << who gets to act like the adult and try to arrive at a consensus decision?>>

    I am with you, we enjoy it when our President does that!

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  8. At least I'm in good company when I say the Republican attacks on the health care reform act were based on lies, while the Democratic attacks on the Ryan Medicare plan were factual. At least one Nobel-prize winning economist agrees with that. So I think I was being accurate. Whether or not I was being constructive, well, who's to say?

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  9. Who could argue with a Nobel-prize winner.

    "Let’s put it this way,” Krugman says when describing the difference between his old classmate at Harvard Larry Summers and himself. “When things go crazy, my instinct is to go radical on policy, and Larry’s is to be a little more cautious.” Summers, in return, took aim at Krugman as "the guy in the bleachers who always demands the fake kick, the triple-reverse, the long bomb, or the big trade," without ever getting in the game.

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