Debt rhetoric scary and entertaining at the same time


“I think disgust is still a valid emotion, and that’s kind of the way I’m viewing this.”

– James Amos, CEO, Tasti D-Lite, discussing Congress’ dysfunction, highlighted by the “self-inflicted” debt crisis, on MSNBC’s Jansing & Co, Friday, July 29, 2011

The time for staying above the fray with logic has passed. The simmering, schmaltz-laden pot of thick, soupy speeches in Congress and at the White House, the dire warnings and the vociferous finger pointing and loud, ignorant denials over the debt ceiling has boiled into a bubbling, sputtering mess that leaves no one seated on the governing burner unscalded. Even President Obama cannot escape the pain.

Whether one supports Speaker John Boehner’s plan, or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s, or some kind of compromise, or no compromise, they are all drowning in the same pot of gooey government gumbo like a tubeful of rendered sausage. It all smells terrible, it all tastes terrible, and the steam rising from it are the evaporating wisps of FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society.

The pundits’ pre-mortem on the debt debate is that there will be no winners. Everyone loses here, all Americans and definitely all the politicians, if only by degrees. (The gold hoarders win, but that’s a conspiracy for another time.)

Still, some of the most lively, entertaining remarks ever heard from members of Congress, in either chamber, have come in the last month. Some are funny. Others are downright stupid. Here’s a short litany:

The president’s birthday conspiracy

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), in an interview with Newsmax TV, July 17: “I can’t help but be a little bit cynical here. Because we find out the president has a big birthday bash scheduled for August the 3rd, celebrities flying in from all over. And lo and behold, August 2nd is the deadline for getting something done, so he can have this massive, the biggest fundraising dinner in history for a birthday celebration.”

The old man doesn’t get these Tea Party whippersnappers

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), on the floor of the Senate, July 27: “To hold out, and say ‘We won’t agree to raising the debt limit until we pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution,’ it’s unfair. It’s bizarro. And maybe, some people who have only been in this body six or seven months or so, really believe that [we can pass something like that in the Senate].”

The Speaker, as parade ground drill instructor

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), speaking to his caucus, July 27: “Get your ass in line!”

The Speaker’s song

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), on the floor of the House, July 29: “Speaker Boehner is entitled to take as his theme song, It’s My Party, and I’ll Cry If I Want To.”

Lower the debt ceiling, drop out of the country club

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports:

Broun: “I introduced a bill to lower the debt ceiling, not raise it.”

Mitchell: “Congressman, when you talk about lowering the debt ceiling, the debt ceiling is being raised to pay for money that has been appropriated by this Congress and previous Congresses… You’re paying for what has already been charged, not for future expenses.”

Broun: “Well, Andrea, the thing is, when someone is overextended and broke, they don’t continue paying for expensive automobiles. They sell the expensive automobile and buy a cheaper one. They don’t continue paying for country club dues. They drop out of the country club.”

Boxer looks to KO Cantor

Sen. Barbara Boxer, on the floor of the Senate, July 27: “First Eric Cantor, the Republican Whip, marches out of [the White House talks] with his teddy bear and Republican blanket, and then a few weeks later, Boehner walks out.” And again on July 30: “Cantor picked up his blanky and went home.”

The Minority Leader as battle ax

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, on the floor of the Senate, July 12: “After years of discussions and months of negotiations, I have little question that as long as this president is in the Oval Office, a real solution is unattainable.”

But, the president says, it’s time to “peas” do the difficult thing

President Barack Obama, at a White House press conference, July 11: “It’s not going to get easier.  It’s going to get harder.  So we might as well do it now — pull off the Band-Aid; eat our peas.”

The Right thinks we need a Balanced Budget Amendment.  They call it a “permanent solution,” when, in fact, it just creates another long term problem, taking away by edict what politicians don’t have the balls to take away with a vote. It’s starving your mother, maybe literally, just to prove a point.

Broun and other Tea people actually want to  lower the debt limit, which would automatically put us into default. Intransigent so-called leaders petulantly walk out of negotiations. And yet, both sides feel, now is the time to do these things.

As the president said, at the end of his “peas” statement, quoting the great sage, Rabbi Hillel, “If not now, when?”

He might have done better to include the first two lines of that text, to remind lawmakers that they are obliged to take care of others, as well as looking after their own interests:

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? If I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” Rabbi Hillel, the sage, in the section of the Mishnah known as Ethics of the Fathers

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