The Mad, Mad, Mad World of American Politics

I can’t think of any other country but the United States in which a politician would vehemently oppose a bill to create jobs – and win praise for it. And I can’t think of any head of state but President Obama who would publicly support a member of his party who opposed key features of the administration’s agenda – and bragged about it in campaign ads.

bunningYet that seems to be par for the course in the crazy world of American politics. Republican Senator Jim Bunning from Kentucky (photo at right) recently tried to block a bill to provide jobs for Americans, and he did it the old-fashioned way – with a filibuster. If you’ve seen the old movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” you’ll know what I mean. If not, you probably won’t get it; it’s just too bizarre. Talk about “only in America”!

The big difference is that in the movie, Mr. Smith was in the right, but in real life, Senator Bunning was just acting crazy, which he does from time to time.

As a result of his eccentric behavior, the American government ground to a halt, 2,000 federal transportation workers were furloughed and work projects were stopped in 17 states.

You might argue that Bunning is retiring from the Senate and wanted to go out with a bang, but that’s not the whole story. Bunning won acclaim from fellow-Republicans, including two Senate candidates in Kentucky, Trey Grayson and Rand Paul. They called it “a principled stand on the (national) debt.”

But you and I know that promoting unemployment is no way to reduce the national debt. It’s voodoo economics. The only sane way to address a mounting deficit is to invest in productive programs, especially in projects that grow exports. Cutting back – especially when it comes to jobs – sabotages the economy and inevitably leads to more cutting back – a deadly downward spiral.

Obviously, Republican politicians are not as stupid as they appear to be. They must know their policies are poisonous. But they also know that a lot of Americans are so emotionally worked up they can’t see straight. The reasons are many and varied – millions are out of work, millions more are in fear of losing their jobs, prices at the store keep going up and incomes keep going down, the mighty American fighting force is beating its head against a brick wall in Iraq and Afghanistan, big banks are robbing the country blind… And, for some (regrettably), the most annoying thing is that a black family occupies the White House.

In this kind of political climate, the crowd would cheer if a latter-day Samson were to bring down the temple on top of himself and a bunch of perceived Philistines.

Obviously, President Obama is flummoxed by this suicide-bomber mentality. He is nothing if not reasonable, and these are not reasonable times. Indeed, his reasonableness is beginning to look kind of crazy.

lincolnTake the case of Blanche Lincoln. The Arkansas senator has consistently voted against key items in the Obama agenda, including cap-and-trade legislation and a public option for health insurance. And she is running campaign commercials boasting about it (photo at right). Progressive members of the Democratic Party became so incensed they raised money to oppose her in the primary, and recruited popular Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter as their standard bearer.

So who does Obama support? Blanche Lincoln!

I suppose some people might consider that mature and forbearing, but I think it’s crazy. Or, rather, it would be crazy anywhere but in the United States of America.