By Don Klein
For years we have been hearing the same plaintive cry from frustrated citizens: “There is not much difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. It doesn’t matter which one is in power, the result is always the same.”
Recent behavior of President Obama and the Republican leadership in Congress has given us all a clear-cut lesson in this dazzling distinction.
Of course, there are basic policy dissimilarities. The Democrats are primarily concerned with the nondescript workers and voters, unions and the moral high ground while the Republican are influenced by corporations, the military and the infinite greed of the wealthy.
Aside from this there is something that goes beyond basic policy. An important element that deserves consideration is called political style. The Democrats for all their desire to do good are poorly organized and are horrible political tacticians. The recent capitulation of Obama on Bush tax cuts is a painful example. In sports it’s called good planning, bad execution.
The Republicans on the other hand are organized and brutal in pursuit of their goals. They were despicable in their cold dismissal of such reasonable measures as medical aid to 9/11 first responders and the rejection of the patently unfair policy towards gays and lesbians called, “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
They stand on these pillars of decadence to protect their “holy grail” tax cuts for the wealthy. The Republicans don’t care how much the tax breaks for the rich will damage the deficit while they are determined to fight to the death to end unemployment insurance payments to the jobless without corresponding spending cuts.
They don’t seem to care that they are borrowing money today to pay for tax cuts that our children and their children in the decades to come will have to redeem. More importantly they are damaging the worldwide stability of the nation to reward their rich patrons.
Further, this contemptible behavior by the Republican leadership manages to get virtually 100 percent support from their ranks in Congress while the Democrats skirmish with each other like alley cats over the issues agreed to by their leadership.
You could say when thinking of the difference between the two parties the Republicans are disciplined and obedient and the Democrats act like rowdy disputants at a condo association meeting. They prove Will Rogers correct. He once said, “I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.”
Democrats can be disappointed with their leaders, as they are now with the Obama tax deal that has split the party, but Republicans are worse than just disappointing. They are calculating and carry the banner of hypocrisy with pride and callousness.
Take one of the leading and very confusing Republicans –- Senator John McCain. He is a politician who at one time seemed to be the bright light in the Republican firmament. I am ashamed to say that at one time I considered him a candidate worthy of my vote. That was ten years ago -- before he lost his way.
If you remember 2000 when he, a war hero, fought George W. Bush, a war eluded, for the GOP presidential nomination, he was the man of rationale battling the man of claptrap. The party chose the wrong man and the country will pay for that mistake for decades to come.
The McCain who ran for president in 2008 was not the same man. He moved to the right to garner the support of those extreme elements that voted for Bush in the previous two elections and added insult to injury by choosing a buffoon as his running mate.
Take “don’t ask, don’t tell” for example. When the issue came up some time ago a reasonable McCain said that he would vote in favor of abolishing the policy if military leaders indorsed the idea. Then earlier this year when the Secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs recommended an end to the policy he said he wanted to wait until the Pentagon report on the subject was released in December.
Now that that report was out showing that the vast majority of servicemen and woman supported the end of the policy, the inscrutable McCain said it was not the time for this act because of a bad economy and he asked for another survey. Soon he is liable to oppose ending DADT because the beer tax is too high.
McCain is an enigma and a hypocrite. That should be no surprise to anyone paying attention to today’s Congress. He is just one of hundreds there. McCain is not so much the “maverick” he claims to be but more of an obedient follower who stood by his party in its deplorable disregard for 9/11 heroes and lack of concern for the jobless.
In the end Democratic leaders like Senator Harry Reid may be slow to act and negligent and President Obama may be a lousy negotiator, but the Republicans have downright scoundrels like McCain in their ranks. It’s a bad choice no matter what.
It is as if Will Rogers could see into the 21st century with his appropriate quip made years ago: “Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate, now what is going to happen to us with both a Senate and a House.”