Principle or Pragamatism? Ask the Hungry

I thought we had lost “Steve” until I saw a comment from him yesterday. He had read “Republicans and the President Live in Different Worlds” and apparently found my position contemptible. In his view, I wasn’t much of “a man of principle” because I preferred to get my Social Security check than to “win” the debt ceiling debate.

I am a lot older than Steve, and I have been hungry, which I’m pretty sure he has never been – not hungry the way I was in Haiti when I went four days with nothing but water in my belly.

The reason for my destitution was a slip-up by my boss, Bernard Diedrich, who went off on a world cruise and left me to run the weekly Haiti Sun newspaper but forget to leave me the authority to make withdrawals at the bank.

When you go four days without food, the reason is irrelevant. Indeed, just about everything else is irrelevant.

Steve and his fellow-Republicans should try it sometime.

Principle is a very fine thing when you’re living in an air-conditioned home, eating three square meals a day and cogitating about the threat of “Socialism.” It’s easy to demand cuts in “government spending” when the cuts will affect someone else’s children. And you can bet the Steves of the world aren’t worried about the prospect of losing Medicare benefits or food stamps. As the saying goes , they’re all right, Jack.

Fortunately, President Obama is no Steve. He knows the way the poor live in this country. He has seen the suffering of the sick.

While Republican leaders vow to bring down the global economy rather than accept common-sense reductions in the subsidies and tax loopholes enjoyed by the richest of the rich, and while “silk-stocking Democrats” threaten to turn their backs on him if he makes concessions on Social Security or Medicare, President Obama chooses to take a more pragmatic view.

He will “lose face” if he must, but he will not sacrifice some child’s supper to his “principles.” He will not allow invalids to lie in pain because of some “noble idea.” He takes the long view that what he gives today can be reclaimed tomorrow. And he takes the humanitarian view that the hungry must be fed, that the sick must be attended to, that the country must be protected from economic catastrophe – today.

And if that diminishes him in Steve’s eyes, he’s prepared to accept that too.

So am I, Steve. So am I.