Saturday, November 02, 2013

The Party That Cried Wolf

When my daughters were very young, I taught them the story of the boy who cried wolf.  My point was simple: if you don’t have credibility with people, nobody will listen to you even when you truly have something to say.  I’m seeing that point play out on the national stage with the Obamacare debacle.

Do I personally have questions about how the Administration could be this clueless and ill-prepared with respect to the all-important website?  Sure I do.   Do I question why the President repeatedly would say “If you like your plan, you can keep it” if, in fact, that statement did not apply to millions of Americans?   Absolutely.   Both of these issues raise questions that I would like to see further probed.   But that’s just me.  My sense is that after nearly five years of efforts to rake President Obama over the coals for everything from the nationality of his father, to his so-called “Islamic” faith, to his allegedly following the teachings of Karl Marx, most people are sick and tired of scandals, accusations, probes, and the sense that the powers-that-be care less about the national welfare than about scoring petty political points.  

So now that prominent conservatives might actually see some real wolves on the horizon, nobody believes them.  And who is to blame for that, my Republican friends?

Perhaps I’m in the minority in this country.  I’m still bothered when the politicians in my party behave inappropriately, and I’m happy to see the issue further explored if I think the public deserves more information.  In other words, no matter whose conduct is at issue – whether Democrats or Republicans – I’m open to the possibility that the benefits from investigating the past may exceed the inevitable costs of dwelling on it.  For example, unlike many of my fellow Democrats, I wasn’t willing to brush under the rug the indiscretions of President Clinton, who I believe behaved recklessly (and not merely negligently), particularly given the way that he essentially assured us in 1992 that his personal indiscretions were a thing of the past.  Indeed, I’m frankly sick of the way Democratic pundits love to take any kind of misconduct perpetrated by a Democratic leader (call it X) and say, “Of course we don’t condone X” or “Admittedly, X is inexcusable,” and then immediately stop trying to explore why X happened and instead turn their attention to blaming the Republicans about something related to X.  Whenever they behave that way, I can see why Democrats have taken the donkey (or ass) as their symbol.

So, to the extent there are important lessons to be learned from the mishandling of either the Obamacare rollout or the way the law was sold to the public, let’s air them!   Media figures shouldn’t permit Democratic spin doctors to change the subject away from their own party’s conduct and toward the ol’ “vast, right wing conspiracy.”  Democrats claim that they are the moderates, and the GOP is under the control of the ideologues, so let’s demand that the Democrats practice what they preach.   I want to know why the signature program of this administration is getting off to such an incredibly bad start.  I don’t want to hear that “other programs have had kinks before” or other excuses.   I want to know how this one went down and why, because it does have something to teach us about the ability of the federal government to manage a vast national program in the 21st century.  

But, I repeat, maybe I’m not in the majority in having these views.   If I weren’t such a public policy junkie who feels in my gut that the universe revolves around Washington, D.C., perhaps I’d be singing a different tune.   For example, I might be telling the Republicans/Tea Partiers that they have forfeited the right to criticize this Administration about anything ever again.   Birthergate.  Benghazi.  IRS.  NSA.  Shutting down the World War II Memorial.  Solyndra.  The list goes on.   On Fox News, they obsess about these “scandals.”  On MSNBC, they rip the Republicans for obsessing about them.  And pretty much, this is what passes for public discourse in contemporary America.
Can anyone blame the public for saying “Enough already!  Let’s focus on the future, and stop viewing the past with scandal-colored glasses”?

It’s unfortunate whenever a boy “cries wolf” and deprives himself of being taking seriously when he needs to be.  But it’s a truly scary thing when one of the two major political parties in the world’s most powerful country has stopped being taken seriously when it sends out alarm signals.  Like it or not, that’s where we stand.   And ironically, perhaps the biggest benefactor is President Obama himself.   No matter what he says or does wrong, the American public might be more willing to blame his critics than the President himself.    This could be just one more example of how, in the words of Bill Clinton (as reported in a new book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann), our President is “luckier than a dog with two dicks.”   

I agree with that assessment.  And I can also assure you that if the Republicans leadership were to see such a dog and take photographs of it, most people would swear they were photo-shopped.   

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