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Tuesday, 14 December 2010 16:13

Forget the Bush "No Follow-up Questions." Follow Up Questions are Badly Needed

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With all the fiery rhetoric in which the political stars of the day are engaged, it may be that none of them are asking the right questions or more likely are not being required to address overriding national issues by a media that talks around topics and doesn’t force politicians to speak concretely about the major concerns of the American people.

That may seem an odd observation given the harangues of the recent campaign and the excited utterances that attach to the prospect of a new congressional majority. But what is the likelihood that anything will come of the change Tea Party supporters were promised since the carefully kept secret was that change wasn’t really part of the game plan except in the sense of exchanging power positions? So far it doesn’t seem that newcomers will alter the way things get done in Washington - - sorry Tea Partiers you’ve been had.

Oh sure, some leaders vow to repeal the health-care legislation, and various state attorneys general are spending tax monies to subsidize legal challenges. And if such legal maneuvering fails to win the argument the new majority will work to keep the reform package from being properly funded. It’s the fruition of the Reagan plan to strangle progressive domestic programs by creating a situation where they fall prey to federal budgets that focus on the defense industry leaving less room for things like Head Start and infrastructure rehabilitation.

After all this time the Republican agenda is working. Voters responded to an economic downturn and threw a lot of the bums out, just as they did when President Obama began his run. After the mess in Iraq, stagnant wages and the export of jobs, it seemed like a moment to change leaders and Obama swept in on the hope for the meaningful change he promised. Thwarted at every turn by congressional minorities and the tug of blue-dog Democrats and his party’s progressive wing, he still managed to accomplish quite a lot all things considered, but as the economy faltered and jobs disappeared, Republican smelled blood in the water and set an aggressive attack machine in motion, laying the blame for all that was wrong about our fiscal condition at the feet of Obama regardless of any intervening circumstances.

And the raucous, carefully staged town hall meetings of last summer with their under- current of racial angst wreaked their damage with an administration unprepared for proper rejoinders to the bitter dispiriting uproar. Once the ball got rolling, it gathered steam and became a juggernaut. And for whatever actual grassroots impetus may have motivated the demonstrators at the start, the movement became a vehicle for every right-wing cause as it moved along in a Hannity-Palin-Limbaugh frenzy. Even respectable party members were fearful of getting on the wrong side of history as it were.

But in the end what has been accomplished by the shift in congressional power? Will the conservative agenda now being reworked in the tax agreement find a signature in the White House of will it be tweaked to make Democrats more comfortable with its final form? House Leader Boehner, the grim weeper, has vowed not to compromise on anything and Mitch McConnell says essentially the same thing in the Senate so where does that leave us? Will stalemate continue to diminish the effectiveness of our legislative bodies or is non-action the goal Republicans seek until a day when they can claim the White House and control both houses of Congress?

As the political wrangling plays out who will be the real problem solvers? Will conservatives ever come up with a truly innovative solution to the country’s predicament instead of revisiting the past and reiterating talking points? It was disappointing that on Sunday’s Fox News Paul Ryan, the incoming Budget Chairman in the House chose to inject the accusatory “class warfare” rhetoric against Democrats into what could have been a serious discussion. Agree with him or not about fiscal policy, one might have hoped that a man touted as ‘a really smart guy’ could have undertaken a more mature approach to the nation’s economic issues. Democratic guest, Chris Van Hollen, who will be the ranking member on the Budget Committee, called him on his remark, making the point that, if anything is to be accomplished, such partisan brickbats are out of line.

President Bush mastered the art of controlling press conferences by managing the press corps and not allowing any follow-up questions. One of the country’s biggest problems is the absence of follow-up questions about almost everything. The Public has a need and a right to know what its government is doing. Partisan politics doesn’t make that happen.

Read 664 times Last modified on Wednesday, 15 December 2010 03:25