With all of the talk of the healthcare debate, "pulling the plug on grandma," and Kenyan birth certificates, it's a wonder that bipartisanship has not bloomed and flourished like the beautiful flower that it is. But when both sides (in this case the Democrats and the Republicans) are so entrenched and, despite ill-advised concessions (taking the public option off the table, really?), neither will stop hypberbolizing and feigning outrage, bipartisanship is as probable as a Mets playoff berth.
We'll start with the Republicans.
First there was Senator Chuck Grassley who was praised by Obama for his willingness to reach across the aisle and repaid the compliment by telling a crowd in his home state of Iowa that the government should not have a plan that decides when to pull the plug on grandma. Grassley later admonished those people bringing up the "end-of-life" issues because, as Grassley stated, they "are not the issues that we ought to be talking about." In other words, he pulled a Palin.
Then there's Rep. Paul Broun (R-Georgia), who wrote a letter disseminated by the American Conservative Union that stated, among other things, "When mama falls and breaks her hip, she'll just lie in her bed in pain until she dies with pneumonia because her needed surgery is not cost efficient." In terms of invoking fear and anger in people, telling them that their mothers will die slow, painful deaths because the government does not want to pay for their surgery seems like a successful strategy, facts be damned.
There's also the birthers, who go beyond Lou Dobbs and Tom DeLay to our elected officials. Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Montana) stated that he would stop talking about the president's birthplace. But before you think it's because he thinks that Obama was born here, you better recognize that it's because the media could not "legitimately" discuss the issue. Of course! Don't forget Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-North Carolina, also the Irish version of the founding father?), who told a town hall attendee that he didn't have enough evidence one way or the other to determine whether Obama was a jus soli citizen.
The most over-the-top performance by a Republican during these town hall meetings, however, goes to Rep. Todd Akin, who joked that "Different people from Washington, D.C., have come back to their districts and held town hall meetings, and they almost got lynched." To follow this up, he pretended to choke himself as if being lynched. He and Michael Richards have an HBO special coming up. But seriously, this is 2009; joking about lynching is so far over the line it's incomprehensible. Especially given the way that some folks (like Rep. David Scott (D-Georgia), who got hate mail calling him a "nigga") have been treated by those who disagree with him.
With such rational, level-headed folks on the other side of the aisle to Obama, it's no wonder that people are blaming Obama for not being bipartisan enough. But having one rational side in a debate and one irrational side would be an improvement from what we're seeing, because the Republicans do not have a monopoly on idiocy.
Rep. Baron Hill (D-Indiana) refused to even hold town meetings because, as he told the Washington Post, he felt that the protesters were "political terrorists" and would try to "blow up" the meetings and not answer the questions in a forthright manner. Way to bridge the gap between the left and the right and try to work together to help your constituents. Listening to them would be Step 1.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-New York) pulled a Rush Limbaugh and compared town hall protesters to Nazis. He told the Huffington Post that protesters' means of protest "is fascist. It is a fascist tactic. That's exactly what they did in Weimar Germany. Let me put it this way. It is a fascist tactic not to disagree with you, or to say you are an idiot or whatever, but to try to shut you up. That's what I mean. That's a fascist tactic." Joining Nadler in comparing the town hall protesters to Nazis (for, apparently, comparing the healthcare plan to Nazis) is Rep. Brian Baird (D-Washington). He accused the town hall protesters of "Brown Shirt tactics." As I've said before, comparisons to Nazism (outside of people actually trying to exterminate a large group of people based on ethnicity/religion/etc.) is never appropriate and does nothing to add to intelligent discourse.
It's utterly ridiculous that these are the people that we have elected to guide and lead us. If they're incapable of having a civil discussion about healthcare and then bitch and moan when a bunch of fringe elements that no one takes seriously fulfill their tangential role in society as wanna-be cranks, should we really expect them to get anything worthwhile done? Let's not forget that at the end of the day, whether comprehensive healthcare reform is passed or not, our elected officials and their families are still covered under one of the best plans in the country. That would explain why they want to pander to special interests and small pockets of voters instead of pass legitimate healthcare reform at the expense of losing their seat in Congress (and their Rolls Royce of healthcare plans).
All quotes of the esteemed elected officials in this post come from Andie Coller and Daniel Libit's "Some lawmakers engage in made-for-YouTube crazy talk"
Photo - Healthcare protesters and supporters (Guardian)