The Republican leaders of the House of Representatives grabbed a half dozen bags of sincerity, looked directly into every TV camera they could find, and lied.
The House had just defeated, 228–205, a bipartisan $700 billion bailout bill. But it was the Democrats who were the subject of vicious rhetoric.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “poisoned our conference,” screeched Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Republican minority leader. He said the House would have voted for the bill “had it not been for the partisan speech the Speaker gave on the floor of the House.” Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) specifically said that Pelosi’s speech changed the minds of about a dozen Republicans who voted against the bill. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), waving a copy of Pelosi’s speech, screamed out, “Here is the reason I believe why this vote failed!” The speech, he said, “frankly struck the tone of partisanship that frankly was inappropriate in this discussion.” Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a senior advisor to Sen. John McCain, was equally blunt—and equally wrong. The bailout failed, he said, because “Barack Obama and the Democrats put politics ahead of country.”
But it wasn’t the Democrats who brought about the bill’s defeat. The Democrats voted 140–95 for the bill; the Republicans voted 133–65 against the bill. Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain reluctantly supported the bill. Nevertheless, the viciously partisan Republican leadership, eager to paint anything Democratic as vicious partisanship, couldn’t even get a majority of their own members to agree to the bailout, one that now had added protections for the taxpayer.
What infuriated the Republican leaders was Pelosi’s accurate portrayal of the Bush–Cheney Administration’s economic policies as “built on recklessness, on an anything-goes mentality, with no regulation, no supervision and no disciple in the system.” While driving America into the deepest deficit in its history, the Administration had usurped its own campaign lies that breathlessly panted the fear that the enemies of American consumers are “tax-and-spend liberals,” as if it was one word.
There are several reasons why this version of the bailout failed. Every member of the House is facing re-election in less than six weeks, and their constituents are angry. They’re angry at the government’s lack of oversight and regulation, supported and encouraged by Bush and McCain, that helped bring about the crisis. They’re angry at the failing mega-mammoth financial institutions that sacrificed the middle class to a horde of unbridled greed and incompetence. They’re angry at corporate executives who make millions while their companies are failing, and then get multi-million dollar “golden parachutes” that let them float into retirement, while the average taxpayer’s 401(k), with only a few thousand dollars may now be worth only half what it once was. They’re angry at “house flippers,” aided by easy-to-get mortgages and some unscrupulous real estate brokers, who made minor fortunes and helped raise housing prices to the point where middle-class families could no longer afford to own a home in an economy that was being held up by toothpicks.
But, most of all, consumers and members of Congress are furious at President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, and their Neocon gaggle who no longer have credibility. For seven years, the Bush–Cheney Administration has used fear as a bargaining weapon.
Six weeks after 9/11, the U.S. had the PATRIOT Act, a 342-page law, which few members of Congress read before voting for it, that pretending to stop terrorists essentially stripped much of our constitutional protections. And the people and their elected leaders agreed to it.
Using the tactics of fear, the Bush–Cheney Administration lied to the people, almost abandoned the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, and invaded Iraq, which had no connection to 9/11. And the people and their elected leaders agreed to it.
For the morally bankrupt Bush Corp., dissent is unpatriotic, un-American, and maybe even treasonous. “You’re either with us or against us,” President Bush told Americans. Because the people didn’t want to be seen as opposed to America, they and their leaders agreed to being bullied. “Support the troops,” Bush told Americans, but meant “Support me and my policies.” And Americans didn’t want to be seen as not supporting America’s soldiers, even if the Bush–Cheney Administration, didn’t give the troops pay raises, adequate body armor or medical care.
The Bush–Cheney Administration said they were “compassionate conservatives.” But, Katrina put an end to that lie.
This is an Administration that believes the environment is important only if it doesn’t interfere with private business. For years, Bush said he believed global warming doesn’t exist, and if it does it wasn’t caused by mankind. Only under the crushing weight of scientific evidence did Bush reluctantly have to modify his beliefs.
Almost eight years of incompetence and lies, with the President’s credibility lower than that of Three-Card Monty dealers in New York City, led Americans to finally realize they have been scammed. Bush had cried out “fear” once too often.
But, it wasn’t the PATRIOT Act, the Iraq War, or the destruction of the environment that brought about the people’s anger. It was their self-interest. In Bush’s Wild West economy, Americans have seen inflation, increased unemployment, foreclosures, and bankruptcies; they have seen their retirement plans dwindle in the vapors of economic chaos. The vote against the bailout was simply political reality by members of Congress who no longer were about to be stampeded by fear, scammed by lies, and whose own self-interest is to be re-elected.
[Walter Brasch’s latest book is the second edition of Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush (November 2007), available through amazon.com, bn.com, and other bookstores. You may contact Brasch at email@example.com or through his website at: www.walterbrasch.com]