It’s important to remember that it is still extremely early in the political season. Eight years ago Wesley Clark was leading the Democratic field with 22% of the support, followed by Howard Dean at 13%, John Kerry with 11%, and Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieverman with 11% and 10 %, respectively.
The Senate has filibustered a huge number of Obama’s appointments to the federal bench. It appears that Harry Reid has figured out how to get some of these nominees through the Senate.
There was a cartoon that I used to watch with my grandson called Courage the Cowardly Dog. The cartoon was mildly amusing but one of the lead characters would always say, “Stupid dog.” It was usually when the lead character didn’t realize the dog was trying to save him from some peril. For some reason, I’m reminded of this by the stalemate in Congress. I feel like saying, “Stupid debate!” One side is arguing based on ideology. They have no intention of telling the American people that it doesn’t matter what the numbers say, that they want the government to spend less. It doesn’t matter that the government is spending less than we did five years ago or 10 years ago on Medicare or Medicaid – even Social Security. None of that matters. All they want is less spending and less government. If the government defaults, who cares? That is the attitude of the Republicans. When you hate government, it doesn’t matter if the government defaults. From your standpoint that is still a good thing. The American people don’t understand this particular debate. Even Republicans, mainstream Republicans, don’t understand this particular stance. Republicans have couched their argument in the veil of “fiscal responsibility.” This the only reason that some Americans will agree with them. Everybody wants fiscal responsibility. Everybody wants the government to spend their money in a thoughtful, prudent manner. Let’s be clear. Thoughtful, prudent spending is not what Republicans are talking about. What Republicans really want is to dismantle government.
Finally, it is important to note that John Boehner does not even have the support of his own party. The speaker the house has spent an enormous amount of time trying to convince the American people that he has a reasonable approach but his own party doesn’t believe him. Again, the Republican Party is not about reasonable approaches. Today’s Republican Party is about dismantling government. Once we understand who was standing with the American people and who wants to dismantle government this whole debate comes in the focus- Stupid debate!
The challenge facing any plan for reducing the debt was underscored when a new Republican proposal to raise the ceiling on federal borrowing was met Monday with misgivings by some conservatives and skepticism by many GOP freshmen. That called into question whether Boehner (R-Ohio) could even get his own caucus to back his approach.
As Boehner tried to rally support for his two-step plan to cut $3 trillion in spending, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) offered a strikingly similar proposal for increasing the debt limit before the Aug. 2 deadline. The two leaders, however, remained bitterly divided over Boehner’s demand to hold another vote next year to further expand the government’s borrowing authority.
Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffordsremains on a ventilator in intensive care. In spite of the fact that I’m a trauma surgeon, I will not speculate on her injuries or her ultimate survival. I will say that her ultimate neurologic functions (how well she will be able to function and think) are still in question. There were several other victims in the shooting and they continue to improve. My prayers are with them and their families.
Here the few of the things that we’ve seen in the last several days:
1. We seem to have a willingness to fall into clichés every time a tragedy like this happens. The left wants gun-control and the right wants everyone to own a gun. The truth is somewhere in the middle. The reality is that our gun laws are not going to change. There’s no political will in Congress to change the gun laws. There are powerful lobbies on both sides, leaving us in a stalemate. Therefore, both sides need to look elsewhere in order to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. The mentally ill should be barred from owning a gun. The problem is how you define mentally ill. With medications, the mentally ill can get better and function in our society. Does this mean that someone can then own a gun if they stay on their medications? This is where all of this becomes very difficult. Owning a gun is a right and a privilege in this country.
2. We do need to tone down our rhetoric on both sides. Excellent articles have been written about the rhetoric. Eric Boehlert from Media Matters, as well as others, have documented the inflammatory rhetoric that we’ve seen from the right. The left has combated some of this rhetoric with inflammatory rhetoric of their own. Most Americans will see the inflammatory rhetoric as over-the-top. Most Americans will dismiss this, but we’re not talking about most Americans. We’re talking about those who live on the fringes of society and are susceptible to these powerful influences. These Americans do not think rationally.
3. We need to do more to fix the problems in our society with regards to mental health. Time and time again in our society we’ve seen mental health pushed to the back burner. They don’t exactly have an advocacy group. Those Americans who are mentally ill are not necessarily lobbying Congress. In order to get things done today you have to be the squeaky wheel or you have to be able to donate money. Mental health victims are neither. We need to have a robust discussion over how to treat patients who need treatment but don’t want it. Paranoid schizophrenic patients do not walk into a doctor’s office and say, “Hey Doc, I’m hearing voices.” Instead, it is their family and loved ones who bring them in and say they’re not acting right. These people need to be held against their will in order to get treatment.
4. We do need to have better security for our public figures without turning into a police state. Are we going to expand the Secret Service to include all of our Congressman/Congresswomen? Or should the capitol police be in charge of their security? I am not in favor of any hasty legislation. I am in favor of a thoughtful discussion that comes up with a solution with which we all can live. The fact that Heath Shuler carries a gun is somewhat scary. I suspect that his catlike reflexes would’ve left him susceptible to the same type of shooting that we saw in Arizona. Everyone being armed is not the answer. I have no objection to Congressman Shuler legally carrying a weapon but I think it’s ludicrous that he thinks that he would’ve been able to do something different. If a random constituent comes up and start shooting, he would be taken by surprise just as everyone else would’ve been.
5. There’s going to be a lot of scrutiny over the gunman. The mainstream media is going to look for “signs or signals” that we could have picked up on before this tragedy. Yet, nothing meaningful will come from this exercise. The bottom line to all of the scrutiny is whether we can predict human behavior. The answer is no.