The Petulant President and Candid Congressman Cole
The president’s petulant jab at reporter Brad Watson –” “Let me finish my answers next time we do an interview, all right?”– reflects the very thin skin the president has developed over his political life as well as the pressure of the mounting evidence that he is a one-termer whose principal contribution to American history after the fact of his election itself will be a sky-high mountain of wasted money and a floor of presidential incompetence on which Jimmy Carter can finally stand.
One of the many reasons President Obama has failed so spectacularly as president in the 30 months since his huge electoral triumph is that he has refused to hear anything from his critics and indeed has cocooned himself inside his fawning aides, dealing almost solely with slavishly fawning Beltway media types and is thus wholly unprepared for the anger in the country at the massive failure of his policies to do anything except mortgage the future of every young American.
At least some of the Beltway Republicans occasionally emerge to take the tough questions from an electorate that is very disappointed with their stumbling, bumbling start. When they do they come away fully informed on the depth of the voter anger with the budget deal and last year’s tax deal, as Marsha Blackburn did on the Monday before she voted “no.” Yesterday one of the GOP’s most senior appropriators, Oklahoma’s Tom Cole, appeared on my show. I had spent most of the previous hour collecting questions for him from the audience. To his credit, he answered them all, with only a hint of prickly disdain for the substance. The transcript is here. The Hill has picked up on the interview, but not surprisingly focused on the part that is of interest to the Beltway Tribe. Here’s the exchange that will interest the Tea Party most:
HH: Did you guys get punked? I mean, [Obama] just doesn’t respect you at all when he does these signing statements.
TC: Look, we are spending this year about $80 billion dollars less than the President originally requested for the 2011 budget. So no, I don’t think we did. Now you’ve got to remember, the Democrats have the presidency, and obviously have the Senate as well. For us to have gotten almost 80% of what we originally set out in the Pledge to America spending reductions, is a good start. And in addition to that, the appropriations for next year are underway. I sit on the Appropriations Committee. The budget we laid out will dictate what we pass in the House, and put us in a tremendous position to continue to force down spending. I think the Ryan budget has put the pressure on the President to finally get serious about deficit reduction. That pressure was ratcheted up with the Standard & Poor action warning us that we’re about to lose triple A credit rating at some point. So I actually think we’re pushing pretty hard and making substantial progress. Would I like it to be more? Sure. But I think the best way to get more progress would be to have a Republican Senate and a Republican president in the next 18 months.
HH: Do you understand, Congressman, that the conservative base doesn’t agree with your assessment that in fact they…
TC: Well, I’m part of the conservative base, so some do, some don’t. And I think I’ve got a long record. I’ve got a 100% NRA record, 100% pro-life, I’m 95 or 96% ACU rating. So I’ll match my conservative credentials with anybody. And again, I think politics is partly an art of the possible. And we are at least moving in the right direction now, and I think moving at an accelerating pace in this Congress.
HH: But where I was going with that was not that you’re not a conservative on social issues, and not that you’re not a gun rights conservative, but that people who are concerned about spending, in particular the Tea Party, came away from the budget deal believing that the House GOP had an epic fail on their hands. I’m not saying you have to agree with that. Obviously, you won’t. But have you heard that? Do you understand that people believe that?
TC: Oh, look, I certainly have heard that. Some people have that opinion. And look, I’m happy to have people in the fight. I don’t quibble a lot about that, although when you’re in a fight, I think it’s usually better to fire your guns at the enemy. I don’t think that Republicans have pushed through the Ryan budget that have cut spending by $80 billion dollars, that are going to probably continue to do that on the appropriations bill this year, are the enemy. I really don’t. So again, I wish you could get everything you wanted in any political encounter, but that’s just not the case. I think we’re moving in the right direction. And yeah, I respect people that have a different opinion. That’s fine. That’s what makes American politics great. And I recognize, by the way, that those who do have a different opinion from me on this issue are on my side, and about 80 or 90% of the fight’s in front of us. So it’s not…if you voted against the budget deal, you ought to stop and think you voted…two out of every three people that did were liberal Democrats, not conservative Republicans, and that included Nancy Pelosi. And if I’m looking at the board, and two out of the three people I’m voting with are big spending liberal Democrats, and I’m voting with former Speaker Pelosi, then frankly, I’m going to raise some questions of whether or not that’s the best vote.
I don’t doubt Tom Cole’s sincerity, but there isn’t a Tea Party chapter in the country that believes either his math or concurs in his assessment of round one of the budget battle.
It is one thing to get hosed, and another thing to not know it. Here’s a suggested response for every GOP House member:
“Clearly we didn’t get to where the Pledge said we would get, and just as clearly we are new to the majority and not yet fully up to speed on how to play these games.
But we are committed as the Ryan budget shows, and we are asking for some patience from our voters. We don’t like the result of Round 1 of the budget fight. Round 2 is the debt ceiling and rounds three through 15 are the individual appropriations bills.
The Speaker and the Leader have committed to the caucus, and we are all in agreement, that we get tougher, not softer, in the next round and that we are not going to be moved on these appropriations bills.
We know why we were sent here and we will get the job done.”
Humility and commitment to good goals go a long way, and the GOP can also be assured that the president won’t be adopting those tactics.
If the House leadership combines those attitudes with a much more determined outreach and availability to the grassroots, they can turn around their falling support.