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John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

In a legislative showdown that was more hysterical than historical, the health care reform battle ended last week with passage of President Obama’s health care reform package.

In its wake, we have the spectacle of Republicans yelling at Democrats over the Democrats’ public outcry about the abuse and violence spewing from the anti-Obama crowd.

One, Republican Eric Cantor of Virginia, accused his Democratic counterparts of playing politics, “fanning the flames” by complaining about all this publicly. To prove his point, Cantor cited an alleged attack against his own campaign office some time ago in which a bullet came sailing through a window. According to a police report, the bullet appears to have come from a shot fired into the sky that, when gravity took over, ended up falling through Cantor’s window. Maybe we’ll learn more about that later.

According to news reports, attacks against Democrats and Republicans included everything from verbal assaults, racial slurs, phone harassment and shouts of “baby killer” in the halls of Congress, to truly unnerving stories about extremists slicing into a gas line at the home of a brother of a Democratic representative, after that brother’s home address was posted on the Internet, apparently a screwup by some thug who thought he had the legislator’s address.

Such is the level of political discourse in America today, a continuum of rage.

And it’s not likely to ease up any time soon.

Even as the health care law was signed by the president, Republicans have vowed to carry the fight into the mid-term election campaigns. It is likely that the rhetoric will at least echo, if not increase, claims that the health care reform law is the “end of freedom,” as one woman declared in a radio news account. Judging by the Republican line, we can expect the nation to implode in violence and bloodshed as the new law wreaks havoc in every sector of our economic and political life.

I liked the way Obama handled all this doomsaying, with humor. That really is the most effective response to such fear-mongering and spewing of bile – with a joke and a chuckle. At least for now. Undoubtedly, as the electioneering heats up, the humor will be sidelined.

One particularly amusing development in this tragi-comedy was the acknowledgment that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a page from the Republicans’ own playbook when she turned to the parliamentary ruse of “reconciliation” as a way of getting around the filibuster problem on the health care vote.

According to reports I heard and read, the Republicans used the reconciliation process 16 of the 21 times it has been employed in Congress over the past quarter-century or so. It has been used for everything from balanced-budget bills to welfare reform to the creation of the Childs’ Health Insurance Program.

This was nothing new, and only the most selective kind of memory loss can account for the Republican Party’s dramatic, not to say insane, caterwauling on the subject. In fact, that’s probably what has the GOP so pissed off – Pelosi beat them at their own game, and they damned well don’t like it.

Ah, well, all’s fair in love, war and politics, as the saying goes.

But now the real hard work begins, if we are to have any kind of rational debate in the months leading up to the November election.

As they have shown, Obama haters have no qualms about using any means to undermine his presidency, including outright lies about the effects of proposed programs. Think, “death panels,” if you doubt what I’m saying.

Somehow, we’re going to have to to wade through the bullshit to get to the truth, and it will not be easy. The job of being a free-thinking voter in America gets harder by the day.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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