Thursday, September 10, 2009

How low can some senators sink?

By Don Klein

Once upon a time there was a collegial attitude in the United State Senate. Yes that is true, although it might be difficult for you whippersnappers under the age of 60 to know it.

During the twenty years of uninterrupted Democratic rule between 1933 and 1953 and the eight years between 1961 and 1969, there was a Republican Party that actually behaved like the loyal opposition acting seriously to debate and solve public issues and to work in the bipartisan spirit.

There were senators like Styles Bridges (N.H.), Robert Taft (Ohio), Owen Brewster (Mich), and Warren Austin (Vt), all Republicans in a Senate that had a two-to-one Democratic majority. Yet they were all cordial to their opponents. They often disagreed with measures proposed by the majority, but refrained of behaving scurrilously or being ruthless.

After all the Senate was the most exclusive gentlemen’s club in the country. Everyone was well behaved. In later years there were other GOP gentlemen, Everett Dirksen (Ill) and his son-in-law, Howard Baker (Tenn), politicians who battled the Democrats tooth and nail but retained their civility and sense of respect for their opponents. Good demeanor was reciprocated by the Democrats. These were true gentlemen working on needed legislation.

So what happened?

Why are many of the current Republicans acting like they just escaped from the lunatic asylum? Why are they committed to block any measure proposed by President Barack Obama and the Democrats? Why do they question Obama’s birth status? Why do they openly lie about the non-existent "death panel" in the proposed health plan?

Why are they defaming the good name of the party which boasts of titanic presidents like Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt?

It is always sad to watch great institutions die. It is worse to watch them commit suicide. I feel that is exactly what the Republicans are doing to their party these days. They make it very unappealing to be on their side on any issue because they are loaded with more nutcases per square foot than barbaric Bedlam, the old English confinement center for the insane.

Here are a few examples of the insanity raging among Republicans currently holding senatorial rank.

Let’s start with an outright lie. Sen. Chuck Grassley, of Iowa, who allegedly was working with the Democrats on the Finance Committee to work on bipartisan legislation on the health bill told a meeting with his constituents they ought to be concerned about a government program which would "pull the plug on grandma." That was a lie and he knew it especially since he didn’t mention he voted for the end of life counseling clause.

That’s as demagogic as you can get.

Then there is Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who said there ought to be the death penalty for abortionists, that the so-called gay agenda is the "greatest threat to our freedom today" and who managed to sneak an amendment to an unrelated bill allowing visitors to openly carry guns in national parks.

Three questions to you senator. 1. How can you punish someone for acting legally, 2. How does being gay threaten the freedom of anyone else? and 3. Why would anyone need a gun when visting a park?

James Imhofe, the other Oklahoma senator, said global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American public and further accused the Weather Channel of scare-mongering about the problem to increase its television ratings. Best of all, he said that the attacks on 9/11 were God’s anger at the US for its policies in favor of Israel. Apparently he speaks with God on a regular basis.

We have Jim Demint, of South Carolina , in one sweeping remark he compared the president to Hitler, Hugo Chavez and the Islamic Republic of Iran. He sees efforts to stimulate the economy and to provide universal health care as Obama’s way to subvert the Constitution. Huh?

Finally there are the two leaders who exemplify the often stated GOP mantra of "family values." For social purists we have David Vitter, of Louisiana, and John Ensign, of Nevada. Vitter fought for an amendment to the Constitution to dictate that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman and often chirped that anyone who committed adultery should resign from public office.

That was before his name and telephone number was found in the records of a prominent Washington brothel keeper.

Ensign is one of those charmers you should never leave alone with your wife, or any woman, especially if you are a close friend. This leader of society converted a female staff member into his personal lady of pleasure even though she was married to another member of the Ensign staff . How’s that for loyalty and friendship? Later he tried to pay off the wounded couple employing his wealthy parents to provide cash.

What a family they are!

There was a time when both these masters of disrepute would have to resign on grounds of what was once termed "moral turpitude," but today they are nothing less than standards for many in the Senate.

The Democrats have their queer duck as well. There is Roland Burriss of Illinois. He was appointed to Obama’s senate seat by disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich before he was impeached by the state legislature. Burriss insisted he never made a deal with the damaged ex-governor. Later a deal to raise money for Blago exposed Burriss as a fraud.

These preposterous characters run around Capitol Hill making laws for the rest of us to live by. They are an insult to the memories of former senators like Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Hubert Humphrey and Arthur Vandenberg – all of whom must be twisting in their is Honest Abe and tough Teddy.