The day of the congressional handshake deal is over. Perhaps it was only ever a much-loved urban legend. Who knows? Watching the discord among elected officials in Washington this past week, many Americans are wondering: why don’t they trust one another, why can’t congress arrive at an acceptable solution?
Doris Kearns Goodwin tries to advance the flawed notion that if elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans, spent more time together, they would build more trust in one another, and, thus, find needed compromises easier to achieve. I think she’s wrong. Members of Congress do not know each other too little. Disagreements occur because they know each other too well.
Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives in 2006 and gained the White House in 2008. For the past five years, Democrats have controlled the legislative process and for almost three years, Dems have controlled the Executive agencies. Democrat bungling and demagoguery have become the order of the day. The outright lies told to fellow members of congress and to the American people would make Pinocchio blush.
Is it any wonder that Republicans in congress find it hard to trust Democrats?
Consider, for example, the president’s promise that the $787 billion stimulus would create between 3 to 4 million new jobs. Didn’t happen. In fact, with unemployment at 9.2% and even government employment declining, the past thirty months have shown that Obama clearly overpromised and has under-delivered.
Speaker Pelosi promised that Obamacare would create an additional 4 million jobs. Didn’t happen. Furthermore, Democrats promised that under Obamacare, there would be no additional cost to the American taxpayer and they promised that insurance costs would not increase. Instead, Americans find that Obamacare will cost, at a minimum, $400 billion more than Democrats in congress claimed. Insurance companies have increased their rates by almost 25%. Furthermore, the promise that "everyone could keep the insurance they currently have" has all been forgotten. Much to their credit, Republicans argue that the promises of Obama, Reid, Durbin and Pelosi were hollow and would be broken. But, Democrats cling to their myths and distortions like a drowning man to a piece of wood.
When caught telling a whopper, the current crop of Democrat leaders show not a hint of remorse or shame. Democrat leaders see no problem promising Americans that they can expand benefits and coverage to all without ever raising taxes. Democrats figure that once the bill passes, and the inevitable constitutional challenges appear, they can quickly shift gears and rebrand the individual mandate as a tax, no doubt depending upon the fact that few Americans will remember, much less hold them accountable for their earlier promises.
Whether it is Obama, chastising Supreme Court justices at the 2010 State of the Union Address or chastising Republicans for inflammatory comments and demanding an end to patently partisan language and behavior, Obama has proved that he is part of the problem when he could not resist demagoguing Paul Ryan for his courage in putting forth a deficit management-budget cutting plan.
Democrat leadership has espoused a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do approach to government, resorting to calumny and demagoguery as their tools. Is it any wonder that, in congress, comity and civility are dead?
Then there’s the special case of Tim Geithner, the boy who cried wolf, and his sky-is-falling approach to fear-mongering. Americans were told that May 16 was the deadline to resolve the debt ceiling issue. But, it seems it really wasn’t. Then Americans were told that August 2nd was the deadline to resolve the debt ceiling issue. But, it seems it really wasn’t. Geithner, mouthing some mumbo-jumbo about Asian markets opening, claimed the deadline was really 4pm on July 24th—but, it seems it really wasn’t. Again. And now, it seems as if the debt ceiling window can be extended until August 10th. Sure. Why not?
For an Administration that claims it will have “unprecedented” transparency, Republicans in congress are finding it difficult to get anything in writing on the President’s approach to managing the debt ceiling and cutting the federal budget. Democrats in the Senate claim they are eager to get resolution on the debt ceiling, but Reid won’t even call for cloture on his own proposal, or put it to a vote.
Anyone who isn’t clear on why Republicans in congress are skeptical of Democrat promises has only to look at the Democrat track record. In the past, when children caught a schoolmate in a lie, they used to cry out “liar, liar, pants on fire”. Republicans, acting cautiously when confronted with Democrat lies, are simply too civil to admit the Democrats in congress and the White House have POFUS. Pants On Fire Syndrome.
Republicans don’t trust Democrat promises—not because there are so many new Republican members of congress and not because they are still strangers to one another, but because, sadly, they know and understand each other too well. Familiarity may not always breed contempt, but in the case of the Democrat leadership and the years of broken promises, familiarity might be a good explanation.