Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Meetin' of Minds

If you go back to my first blog, you'll notice that I stated that I've become a little obsessed with politics, but it's not new for me to do this.  You will also notice that the title of this blog is Thoughts, Rants, Raves, and Reviews.  I will eventually move off the politics, but for now I am stuck in a loop.  Sorry, but I think that we live in a time when few of us can afford to look the other way, no matter how sick we are of the politics.

So...with that in mind...

This is a story first reported by Robert Draper, a contributor to the New York Times, in his book Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives and discussed in places like MSNBC, Huffington Post and other news journals.  The title is a reference to a 1796 quote of a congressman lamenting the dysfunction of Congress.  Congress is adversarial by nature.  It was designed that way, but the events of Draper's story is one that goes beyond the pale.

As near as I can tell, while I've seen a few of those who were aware of the meeting questioned and as politicians not exactly deny that it occurred, Draper is the primary source.  I do not know how it was corroborated. But still, if true, the story gives a very clear picture of politics in America.  If not, it is strikingly odd that this strategy is exactly how it played out over the past three and half years.  Draper's book was published at the beginning of this year but was written  after the 2010 elections.

According to Draper:

On the night of the inauguration of President Obama, there was a four hour dinner meeting.  It was a meeting of the Republican leadership.  At this meeting, they discussed the way to ensure the failure of Obama's presidency and ensure a Republican victory in 2012.  Now strategy meetings go on all the time for both parties, but this one was different.  The Republican leaders decided that they would oppose any proposal that Obama would make no matter how it helped the country. They would filibuster and trap proposals  in committee.  They set a time line to make each move more and more political.  The first goal was to stop the stimulus and to attack in appointee hearings those they could about social security and taking campaign funding, etc.  They also would take back the house in 2010 and then use that momentum to publicly destroy Obama's legislative plan.

In attendance at this meeting were  Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan, Pete Sessions, Jeb Hensarling, Pete Hoekstra and Dan Lungren from the House and Jim DeMint, Jon Kyl, Tom Coburn, John Ensign and Bob Corker from the Senate.  Non-lawmakers were Newt Gingrich, and Frank Luntz, the Republican wordsmith. Two that were not there was House Minority Leader John Boehner, who apparently didn't get along with Luntz and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.You may have also noticed that Paul Ryan, Republican Vice President nominee, was in attendance at the meeting.

Draper's book's timeline for events and discussion of what happened following the meeting fits according to several news sources.  According to Draper, when the meeting ended, Gingrich announced, "You’ll remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown," and that McCarthy announced, "If you act like you're the minority, you're going to stay in the minority. We've gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign."   Should Obama and his staff realized how acrimonious the Republicans were going to be and done more to eliminate the 60 majority rule in the Senate and press the more center leaning Republicans of congress?  It is difficult to say.  

It is possible that all the unanimous "no" votes, filibusters, and attacks were the simple result of political and philosophical difference.  There have also been a few cases of defections among the ranks. On the other hand virtually every vote has been along party lines, a jobs bill which most non-partisan economists say would create 2 million jobs languishes on the house docket and things that Republicans used to support, they suddenly don't.  One Republican member of congress told his Democratic friend on the same committee, that he would have to vote no on a bill saying, "We are no longer allowed to play."

If  this "strategy meeting" did occur, then a group of politicians made a plan in a dire time.  This plan was not one that would show what they could do to help the people they serve, but a plan that would do exactly the opposite.  In short, they put their party and their own personal agenda ahead of the country and in large part may have continued the economic problems we still face.  

Something to think about when you vote.  Is your representative going to represent you?