Republicans - Good Government's Friends

Self-interest speaks all sorts of tongues, and plays all sorts of roles, even that of disinterestedness.
- Francois, Duc de la Rochefoucauld, Reflections (1678)

Self-interest speaks all sorts of tongues, and plays all sorts of roles, even that of disinterestedness.
- Francois, Duc de la Rochefoucauld, Reflections (1678)

crazy to call it dysfunctional and Washington is certainly not the seat
of a failed state even though you might think so if you listen to some
commentators. It's just that people change their minds. It is tempting
to say they do it just to annoy the president. That is cynical. In the
case of John McCain, for example, his change of mind is not malicious.
He is simply eager to take what he believes at the moment is the best
approach to a given issue and is, therefore, not influenced by whatever
position he may have formerly taken, inconsistent though his newest
position may be.

On October 19, 2006, in a session hosted by Chris Matthews at Iowa State University.
McCain was asked by a student about his position on the "don't ask
don't tell policy" of the military. In response he said: "the day that
the leadership of the military comes to me and says, Senator, we ought
to change the policy, then I think we ought to consider seriously
changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give
the responsibility to." When the issue was discussed by military
leaders in a Congressional hearing held February 2, 2010, Mr. McCain
had changed his mind. Defense Secretary, Robert M. Gates and Joint
Chiefs Chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, testified before the Senate Armed
Services Committee following the president's announcement that he would
seek the repeal of the 15-year old policy. Admiral Mullen told the
senators that repealing the policy was "the right thing to do".
Secretary Gates said he was in full support of the president's
decision. The testimony of the two men angered John McCain who had
changed his mind since 2006. He practically rose up out of his chair
towards the conclusion of the hearing and with ill-concealed rage said
the testimony of these officials "disappointed" him. He went on to say:
"At this moment of immense hardship for our armed services, we should
not be seeking to overturn the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy", oblivious
to the fact that one of the consequences of the policy has been the
discharge of more than 800 military personnel possessing critical
skills, including 60 Arab speakers. Forgetfulness of his earlier stance
on 'don't ask don't tell' was not his only entry into the dark room of
lost memory. PAYGO was another.

Under PAYGO rules, new
spending programs or tax cuts must be paid for in a way that does not
add to the deficit. In years gone by PAYGO had bi-partisan support. In
September 2002, when Republicans controlled the Senate, it was passed
by voice vote. Then Majority Leader, Trent Lott (R.MISS), said the
policy was fiscally sound. Sen. Pete Domenici (R. -NM) said: "Of all
the issues you will vote on, the most significant opportunity to save
taxpayers money over the next year is this little resolution." Those
men were not alone in their approval of the policy. In 2004 when the
Resolution to extend PAYGO was again before the Senate, Senators
Olympia Snowe (R-Me.) Susan Collins (R-ME.) and John McCain all voted
in favor of the policy even though the Republican Party opposed it. In
a hearing before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Committee in 2006, Senator Susan Collins of Maine said she believed
that PAYGO rules were a "much-needed restraint for members of Congress
as we wrestle with fiscal decisions." After President Obama's address
to Congress on February 24, 2009, Senator Snowe said=:
"I commend the President's call for fiscal discipline to help return
our nation to a sound financial footing. I believe now is the time for
both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to commit to pay-as-you-go rules for
both revenues and spending . . .." In the State of the Union address on
January 27, 2010, President Obama urged approval of PAYGO reminding
Congress that "pay-as-you-go" "was a big reason why we had record
surpluses in the 1990s."

President Obama probably thought
he could count on the support of those who had supported PAYGO in the
past. He was mistaken. Not only had John McCain entered the dark room
of lost memory but he was joined there by Senators Olympia Snowe and
Susan Collins. For them it was a no-brainer. Barack Obama suggested it.
It must be a bad idea. They were joined by all of their Republican
colleagues. The rule passed without one Republican vote. The best
reason for opposing the rule was articulated by Rep. Eric Cantor of
Virginia. Mr. Cantor opposed it because it would not affect spending
that had already taken place. Presumably he and his Republican
colleagues have some legislation in mind that will recoup money that
has already been spent. As soon as they figure out how that can be done
they should share it with the country. That would be their first
positive contribution to government in a long time.

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