Saturday, September 15, 2012

Petulant Politicians and their Piss-Poor Performance

I've been pretty sick the past few days with a 103 degree fever, but the silver lining is that the time at home has given me the chance to catch up on some reading.  An excerpt from Michael Grunwald's new book, "The New New Deal," boiled my blood far more than the fever ever could.  Enough to get me back on the wagon again and start posting.

The part I read focused on the time shortly after the 2008 elections, when Barack Obama won the presidential election on a platform of hope and change.  The Democrats had also won strong majorities in the Senate (58 of 100 seats) and in the House of Representatives (257 of 435 seats).  Understandably, the Republicans were humbled, and were nursing their wounds at a strategy session.  The quotes -- not just the narrative, but the quotes -- that Michael Grunwald uses to describe the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, make me furious:

The owlish, studiously bland Senate minority leader from Kentucky was the unlikeliest of motivational speakers.  He was a strategy guy, cynical and clinical; he reminded his members to stay calm, stay on message and stay united.  Obama had promised postpartisanship, and Republicans could turn him into a promise breaker by withholding their support.  "We got shellacked, but don't forget we still represent half the population," McConnell said.  "Republicans need to stick together as a team."  Or as Ohio Senator George Voinovich summarized the strategy, "If Obama was for it, we had to be against it."
But McConnell believed Republicans had nothing to gain from me-too-ism.  He reminded his caucus that Republicans wouldn't pay a price for opposing Obama's plan if it succeeded, because politicians get re-elected in good times.  But if the economy didn't revive, they could return from the political wilderness in 2010.  "He wanted everyone to hold the fort," Voinovich later explained.  "All he cared about was making sure Obama could never have a clean victory."
Excerpted from The New New Deal, copyright 2012 by Michael Grunwald, published by Simon & Schuster, August 2012.

I cannot explain my outrage at this kind of philosophy using even marginally polite language.  Is this how we teach our kids to play on the playground?  That if you don't get your way, the next best thing to do is be obstinate and destructive until you get your way?  I fail to understand why our Senators consider themselves above the most basic behavioral traits we try to instill in our youth.

This.  Is.  Disgusting.

This has nothing -- nothing -- to do with political ideology, or about Republicans vs. Democrats.  There are many tenets of the Republican party that I find appealing.  For instance, some elements of Representative Paul Ryan's budget plans are uncomfortable and different from what we are used to, but they are required to address the uncomfortable and different budget problems we face today.  The Republican ideal of a smaller, less intrusive government is broadly appealing to many people.  But Senator McConnell's uncompromising, obstructionist, screw-the-other-guys-at-all-costs is antithetical to everything that this country was founded on and stands for.

When James Madison was asked, "Are there any principles by which the American government works?" he responded, "Yes, there are three: compromise, compromise, compromise."

Look, dammit, you don't win your way back to popularity by being petulant and throwing a tantrum.  You win your way back to popularity by proposing a compellingly better path forward; by being more in tune with what people want; by making a positive case that you can address the current administration's shortcomings.

In business, in the military, and in engineering (and I've been involved in all three), you make your case for your position or your proposed path forward.  Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.  The team's success requires you to execute the chosen task to the best of your ability, whether it was what you wanted or not.

That is how I expect elected officials to behave, whether I voted for them or not.  Anything less is disgusting.

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