Today I read in The New York Times a quote from the Republican United States Senator Tom Coburn that underlines my point.
“The only time you shut down the government is when you shut it down and refuse to open it until you accomplish what you want. But we’ll fold like hotcakes. … You do not take a hostage you are not going to for sure shoot. And we will not for sure shoot this hostage.”
I grew up in the tumult of Watergate where the constitutional crisis was a daily news report. Since becoming an adult, and for decades a Nixon-history-buff I have read countless stories and accounts of the dealings and machinations from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue as events of those years unfolded. But throughout the entire ordeal, be it President Nixon or Congress, everyone could see (or claim to see) the damage that Watergate was doing to the nation.
The president knew that his grand designs for international affairs were dead in the water. He knew his domestic agenda was stymied as long as the affair dominated news coverage. Congress felt that the constitution needed to be upheld with an orderly process allowed to play out to show the American people the legal implications to the actions taken by the Administration.
The bottom line was everyone was working in their own way for the American people. History might judge we need to stretch a bit to see how ‘everyone’ could make that claim, but there are enough accounts with primary sources to make my point.
But now in Washington with the rash and just plain spiteful conservatives, we have language that is being used, and tactics are undertaken that make Watergate seem tame. There is no evidence from House Republicans that the best interests of the nation were anywhere near the top of the pile for reasons they are playing Russian roulette with the national government. The mean-spirited game of partisan politics from conservatives, along with racial politics has always been a part of this equation. I have long felt the racial component for conservatives when it comes to President Obama is more important than the desire to make government function for the people.
There is no way that some in this nation will allow for a black President to succeed. That is at the root of many of the most bizarre antics that have played out over the past couple of years, and what is at the heart of the latest example of bat-crap-crazy coming from Ted Cruz and House Republicans. Doing everything they can to delegitimize President Obama is not because they have such disdain for his policies, but that he is a black man that not only won the American vote once but twice.
When we have a U.S. Senator use language only in jest of taking a hostage and shooting a hostage as part of a public statement makes me aware that much has changed since Nixon stonewalled in giving information to congress.
This is a sad chapter that is now playing out in Washington as we hurdle from a self-created crisis to the next.
Nixon must be looking down (or up) and just shaking his head.
After all, even with all his flaws, he was always thinking about how to move this nation forward.