Yesterday I interviewed Robert Duvall, who is out touting the Oscar-worthiness of his Crazy Heart co-star Jeff Bridges. (The transcript of the Duvall conversation is here and the audio is here.) Bridges plays Bad Blake in the film, a singer who is addicted to drink. It is a beautiful film of loss and redemption, and Bridges should walk away with the honors, as will the song “Weary Kind” by Ryan Bingham and perhaps even Maggie Gyllenhaal, nominated for best actress in a supporting role.
Thus I was thinking about addicts and their troubles when yesterday’s story about a new “jobs bill” hit the news. Senators Baucus and Grassley had appeared to announce a new era of bipartisanship and an $85 billion dollar spending bill to help create jobs.
The United States doesn’t have $85 billion. It would simply be added to the deficit, the enormous, gigantic and growing deficit.
The “deal” had collapsed by the end of the day as Republicans shuddered and Harry Reid beat a retreat, but the message to the country was clear: The Congress still doesn’t get it. It is still addicted to spending money it doesn’t have in pursuit of a political redemption they cannot earn after TARP and the stimulus that wasn’t, after the takeover of GM and the still underway attempt to takeover all of banking and of course the undead Obamacare monster.
Congress is still hitting the bottle, hard. Even though it is going to kill many of its members politically. Most of the Republicans are in recovery, but as Senator Grassley proved yesterday, each one of them is one shiny press availability away from falling back into the depths of the governing style that proved their undoing in 2006 and 2008.
“What you’ve had in the last year is you’ve had a grass roots anger manifesting itself in the Tea Parties and town halls,” Mark Steyn told my audience yesterday. “And, belatedly, the Republican members of the United States Senate sort of caught onto it, caught on to what was happening. But their instincts are still to do what Senator Grassley did, which is to go along with the Democrats. And it makes no sense at all. The Democrats ought to have, this joke of a jobs bill ought to be hung around the necks of the Democrats only, so that every time the jobs bill is mentioned as another Obama laughing stock like the stimulus and all the other stuff, it will be branded Democrat only. I mean, Grassley must understand that. I know he’s been there since Reconstruction, but he must understand that, surely.”
Surely? I don’t know. I thought so. The MSM braying about the phoney bipartisanship offers from our stunt president has apparently cowed some of the GOP who just a few weeks ago on the morning after the election of Massachusetts had seemed to recognize that the country was clamoring for a fundamental overhaul of D.C. The country didn’t vote for the Obama-Pelosi-Reid huge lurch left. They are in fact horrified by it. Like the Gyllenhaal character in the movie, they trusted known addicts and they got the inevitable result.
What the GOP has to do, every day from now until November, is recommit to doing it differently, to stop the wild spending and the urge to step forward with a government program as a means of garnering favor. It doesn’t work and the public grows increasingly impatient for serious people saying serious things about our out-of-control federal government and our bankrupt states.
Senator Grassley’s huge mistake yesterday was a reminder to the GOP that it cannot have just one drink. It has to stand where it stood throughout 2009 –on principled opposition to the Obama agenda, no matter how many times a CNN correspondent insinuates that Republicans are somehow stopping the government from solving pressing problems. The country knows, as Ronald Reagan once famously said, that government is the problem right now, and must be pushed back and carved down, immediately.
This is no place for the weary kind of Congressman. The members of the GOP who do not have the stomach to trust their voters who have told them again and again what they want done but who instead want to gain the praise of the Sunday show hosts had just better retire.
It is possible to change the Congress, and the voters are going to do that in November. The GOP’s job between now and then is to ready themselves to actually do the work of reducing the size and cost of the government, and to fight every day against Obamacare, against the takeover of the banks, and against every ridiculous line of spending in this ridiculous budget.
Can they stay sobered up for nine months? Can they persuade the public that they will stay that way in 2011 and 2012?
Take a congressman or a staffer to see Crazy Heart. Tell them that is how they are viewed. Everybody knows they are out of control and looking more and more foolish by the moment. Spread the word.