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April 8, 2010
There’s an old saying that I have modified slightly to fit today’s political scene:
If you have to eat the product, you really don’t want to see how either sausage or controversial legislation is produced.
Unfortunately, Americans have to eat the product of the Obama/Pelosi political sausage factory and, in the words of Wall Street Journal Washington columnist Kimberly A. Strassel, this is how the ObamaCare legislation was pushed to a six-vote victory in the House of Representatives:
“…dirty deals, open threats, broken promises and disregard for democracy.”
Columnist Strassel, under a headline which read “Inside The Pelosi Sausage Factory,” then gave specific examples of the way votes were pushed into the “yes” column either by fear of retaliation or promises in what amounted to a form of political bribery. Some examples:
A California congressman expressed concern to President Obama about the amount of irrigation water which the federal government had allocated to his Central Valley district. The Interior Department subsequently announced a Central Valley allocation of 25% of available water rather than the expected 5%. The California congressman pledged to vote “yes.”
An Oregon congressman threatened to lead a revolt unless changes were made in Medicare payments to benefit his state. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi subsequently cut a deal to give 17 states additional Medicare money.
A Tennessee congressman switched to a “yes” vote after House leadership inserted a new provision providing $100 million in extra Medicaid money for Tennessee.
Tactics like these produced some additional switches from “no” to “yes,” but the chief sausage maker was still several votes short of the necessary majority. Then followed the critical deal with Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak and the handful of votes which he controlled: a promise that after approval of the Senate bill which included possible federal funding for abortion under certain circumstances, President Obama would issue a presidential executive order nullifying the Senate language.
This brought the anti-abortion Michigan representative and his little band of colleagues into the “yes” camp, providing the narrow margin of victory.
But as was immediately pointed out, a presidential executive order cannot nullify clear statutory language enacted by the Congress. If this were possible, we would be in effect a lawless nation any time a president chooses to issue an executive order intended to override the language of the law.
* * *
There were countless other examples of the lengths to which the Obama/Pelosi team went to push to victory legislation to which, two-thirds of the respondents in a USA Today/Gallup Poll reacted by saying that the health care overhaul costs too much and expands the government’s role in health care too far.
Among those additional examples of the lengths to which Obama and Pelosi went:
Obama flew to Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio and Virginia to hold rallies with small supportive crowds and bring pressure on wavering House members in each of those states. In four days, Obama held 64 meetings with congressmen or calls to congressmen. On the day of the crucial vote, Pelosi took time to call the former president of the University of Notre Dame, the Rev. Theodore Hesborgh.
“The House Democratic leader was not seeking spiritual guidance,” in the words of the Chicago Tribune report. “What she wanted was for Hesborgh to help lock up the vote of Rep. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat from South Bend, Indiana, who was wavering over the abortion issue.” Donnelly pushed the ‘yes’ button later that day.
All of this effort in behalf of a bill which knowledgeable observer after knowledgeable observer has said would actually increase the federal deficit and thus the federal debt, not reduce it as Obama and Pelosi and their fellow arm-twisters contend.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, put it this way, in a New York Times column carrying the headline: “The Real Arithmetic of Health Care Reform”:
“The stakes could not be higher. As documented in another recent Budget Office analysis, the federal deficit is already expected to exceed at least $700 billion every year over the next decade, doubling the national debt to more than $20 trillion. By 2020, the federal deficit—the amount the government must borrow to meet its expenses—is projected to be $1.2 trillion, $900 billion of which represents interest on previous debt.
“The health care legislation would only increase this crushing debt. It is a clear indication that Congress does not realize the urgency of putting America’s fiscal house in order.”
Incidentally, the USA Today/Gallup Poll I referred to above also found that among the Americans responding to the poll’s questions, Obama’s performance was approved by 47% and disapproved by 50%--the first time his disapproval rating has hit 50% in the USA Today/Gallup polls.
* * *
Is there any public political figure in America more unpopular today than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat? Is it possible that Pelosi doesn’t realize that her “sausage factory” tactics and picture after picture after picture after picture in the news media are not playing well with a good many millions of Americans—a majority, I would venture to speculate?
Pelosi seems to seek out news media picture opportunities and publicity, including that post-victory march on Capitol Hill with a huge gavel clutched in her hands. I never heard or read an explanation, but I’m guessing that it is a gavel recognizing her role as Speaker of the House. Whatever its significance, clutching the gavel as she marched in triumph from one victory rally to another didn’t enhance the already battered Pelosi image, in my eyes.
And what will Vice President Joe Biden do next to further the image that he is too often a foolish bumbler who would do better to keep his mouth shut on frequent occasion? I refer, of course, to the fact that in introducing President Obama at the bill-signing ceremony, Biden, apparently thinking a microphone was not live, was heard by the television audience to say to the president, “This is a big f…ing deal!”
Indorsing this display of almost incredible bad taste, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, in effect endorsed Biden’s language with this statement:
“And yes, Mr. Vice President, you’re right.”
* * *
You might call it Educators in Wonderland, the proposal that school districts across the country adopt a uniform set of academic standards.
It is the recommendation of a panel of educators convened by governors and state school superintendents and it would set uniform national goals for what public school children should learn in math and English, year by year, from kindergarten to high school graduation.
To me, there is comfort in the fact that the proposal is so obviously impractical that it is very unlikely to be adopted. But it is disturbing to think that a panel of educators convened by governors and state school superintendents would come up with such an impractical suggestion.
You are talking about school districts in the Omaha area, for just one example, ranging from predominantly low-income East Omaha neighborhoods to middle-income and upper-income neighborhoods in West Omaha.
There are commendable efforts underway to improve educational opportunities in Omaha’s low-income neighborhoods by the creation of magnet schools, which are already producing some positive results. There is also an ambitious program to start providing learning opportunities for children very soon after their birth.
Although improvements will be made and should be vigorously pursued, good intentions simply won’t be able to produce uniform citywide or statewide or nationwide educational results. Consider this basic reality: a primary problem in many cases is simply persuading a single mother to make her children to be show up for school. The problem is especially acute when there is no father figure present in the family, as is the case in a very large percentage of homes in low-income neighborhoods.
Under the proposed new national standard for every classroom, fifth-graders would be expected to be proficient in English at a level that enables them to explain the difference between drama and prose (I wonder if that should be phrased as the difference between poetry and prose) and to identify elements of drama like characters, dialogue and stage directions. Seventh graders would study, among other math concepts, proportional relationships, operations with rational numbers and solutions for their equations.
I would think a more realistic goal for fifth graders nationwide would be to see that they can read and understand what they read and write a grammatically correct theme on some subject of their choice, rather than being able to explain the difference between “drama and prose.”
We should keep working at a national goal of improving educational performance in classrooms across the country, but I have to give this panel of well-intentioned educators an “F” for their totally unrealistic recommendations for specific nationwide standards of achievement.
* * *
A few thoughts left over from the end of the University of Nebraska women’s basketball team’s history-making season: I bet a drink of scotch with a doctor friend who lives in Kentucky on the outcome of the Nebraska-Kentucky game in the opening “Sweet Sixteen” round in the NCAA national championship tournament.
Kentucky ended the Lady Huskers’ remarkable season with a nine-point victory.
It wasn’t until half-time of the game that I learned, from a CNN commentator, that after a losing season last year, the Kentucky coach was so obsessed with producing a better season this year that he gave each of his returning players a blue and white basketball (Kentucky’s colors) and ordered them to dribble the basketball everywhere they went on campus.
Had I known this, I still would have bet on the Huskers, but I would have questioned the emotional intensity of the Kentucky coach. (I was tempted to say I would have questioned his mental balance.)
When Kentucky played the Oklahoma women’s team in the next round, Marian and I were torn between cheering for Kentucky so that the Huskers would look better or cheering for a Big 12 team. We wound up cheering for Oklahoma but wondering why Kentucky had played so well against the Huskers and so poorly against Oklahoma, losing by a 20-point margin.
As the old saying starts, On any given day (or night), almost anything can happen in the world of sports.
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