Political translation

Friday, September 16, 2011

When President Obama demanded, during a joint session of Congress, that his sure-fire, bipartisan economic recovery plan be adopted right now, govtalk analysts turned to their interpreters. Here is what he really said:"Bipartisan my you-know-what. I'm drawing a line in this fresh pile of campaign sand. If you pass my plan and it fails, I can blame you for being such play-along dummies. If you pass my plan and it succeeds, I can take all the credit. If you don't pass my plan, I can make you the bull's-eye of my anti-Congress campaign rhetoric."

Likewise, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives drew a line in their political sand, only they did it right after the elections a year ago that gave the GOP control of that chamber. And they have been daring the president -- or any other Democrat -- to step across. They are itching for a good fight.

Now that we know where the professional Republicans and the Democrats stand -- which is exactly where they've always stood for the past three or four decades -- we can turn to ordinary Republicans and Democrats for some common sense. It's hard to find, because these are the good old Joes like me who say they are fed up with politics as usual and have given Congress an approval rating so low it barely registers but continue to elect the same characters cycle after cycle.

And whom do we elect? Candidates, incumbents or not, who will say anything to get your vote. Once elected, they take up the mantra "We have to make tough choices, some of them repugnant to our constituents, because they elected us to make tough choices." We did?

If President Obama had really wanted to save the United States from economic ruin, he would have started his speech to Congress by saying this, no interpretation needed: "Because of the dire circumstances in which we find ourselves, I am tonight putting forth a plan that deserves immediate passage. If you want to make the plan stronger and better, please feel free. And to demonstrate the severity of our debt-ridden black hole, I am also announcing that I will not be a candidate for re-election. Instead, I will be devoting the remaining 16 months of my administration to leading this nation to full employment and full economic recovery."

But he didn't say that. Instead he set the table for a bitter feast of campaign vittles. And you know what? We, the voters, will gobble up whatever glop we're served. That's the kind of dinner guests we've become.

Members of Congress, of course, would never tell voters they won't be running for re-election because of the dire fate that awaits the republic unless somebody takes charge. Congress, abetted by the president, would rather let a gang -- a dozen professional politicians -- do all the dirty work.

So here we go. If you were wondering when the 2012 campaign season would officially kick off, now you know. And now you also know that, so far, no one has made any realistic moves toward sanity. Instead, the inmates are all trying their best to maintain control of the asylum.

Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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