In my years living in DC and watching American politics I’ve had plenty of chances to observe political opportunism, legislative neglect and pure partisan idiocy at their worst. Yet I’m not sure that I’ve seen anything to match the pure spite and arrogant irresponsibility of the current crop of Democrats in Congress.
For decades our legislators have screwed around and squandered our money and pandered to special interests and neglected their responsibility to enact a comprehensive and meaningful energy policy. The blame for that falls on both parties and on us for not holding their feet to the flames during the good times in anticipation of a problem we’ve known was coming since the disastrous days of the Carter Administration.
Congressmen are short-sighted creatures who live from election to election and are more concerned with where the next campaign fund check is coming from than with what’s going to happen after they’ve retired with a fat pension and a K-Street job. Yet they do have responsibilities and one of those is to pass legislation to promote the “general welfare” of the people as specifically laid out in the Constitution. That includes implementing sensible energy policies for the nation, a job which shouldn’t take them 30 years to do. Not doing that job is particularly egregious when the legacy of their past inaction is in the news every day, on display at the gas pumps and being hammered on week after week and month after month by the President.
Their irresponsibility is reprehensible, but to fail to meet their obligations as lawmakers for partisan political reasons is inexcusable. In a time of crisis created by their own past failures, to choose not to act when the need is so obvious, solely because it will help them in the coming election, and because compromise is not politically convenient, marks congressional Democrats not just as venal and incompetent, but as enemies of the people.
This week, when they recessed for the summer they left the energy issue hanging despite reasonable proposals from both sides of the aisle and from the White House of simple, common sense measures which would at least have been first steps towards a sensible energy policy. How hard would it really be to address our energy needs? All it would take is a little compromise. Expand offshore drilling to satisfy our immediate needs. Grant some waivers to get new refineries built. Establish consumer tax credits for purchasing fuel efficient and alternative fuel vehicles and for home energy efficiency improvements. That’s all it would take to send speculators scuttling out of the oil market, bring down prices and lay the groundwork for a more energy independent future.
If I can figure this out, you know that legislators with staffs to research these issues know exactly what they could and ought to do — what they should have done years ago. The ugly truth is that in full awareness of their responsibilities and how to meet them, congressional Democrats have turned their back on duty and betrayed the people by choosing to let the situation worsen so that they can benefit politically and blame the situation on their opposition. With solutions within easy reach they deliberately chose to delay and engage in ridiculous time wasting distractions and political grandstanding, putting their responsibilities off until after the recess and likely after the election. They could easily have implemented long term solutions and short term relief measures but chose to do nothing.
In making this partisan decision they are assuming that the public is too stupid to place blame where it belongs and hope that we will target our rage on Republicans, the Bush administration and by association John McCain. They hope that we will greet them as saviors when they finally do act a few months down the road, forgetting that they deliberately chose to leave us hanging for months when they should have acted. They rarely go wrong underestimating the American people, but in this instance their arrogance may be so great that they let the mask slip, showing us the ugly reality beneath it.
That reality takes the form of the pinched visage of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, arrogantly revealing that her loyalty is to partisan power rather than the welfare of the people, in comments she made in the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday. With 73% of the public favoring expanded drilling and a growing number of congressional Democrats willing to form a compromise policy with a combination of expanded drilling and conservation measures, it is Pelosi who has held up progress in Congress and who declared in Friday’s interview that she “will not…give the administration an excuse for its failure.”
What she is missing in her arrogance is that the administration has been so outspoken with its proposals and has received enough press coverage, that anyone who is paying any attention at all realizes that it is Pelosi’s failure and partisan maneuvering which have left us vulnerable and that it is her irresponsibility and opportunism which are inexcusable.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Pelosi’s failure here is one of neglect or inaction. In a CNN interview to air on Sunday she makes very clear that she worked deliberately to block any compromise and any passage of short term measures to address national energy needs and did so purely out of a vindictive partisanship which is a a disgraceful motive on which to sacrifice the financial welfare of the nation and its people. She would pay any price to hurt the Bush administration especially when that price is paid by the citizens rather than her elite political cronies.
More politically cautious but just as opportunistic as Pelosi, Barack Obama expressed support on Friday for expanded drilling and the comprehensive energy policy which Pelosi rejected. In a speech to the National Urban League Obama said:
My interest is in making sure we’ve got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices. If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage – I don’t want to be so rigid that we can’t get something done.”
Obama certainly said the right thing, but he said it at the wrong time, waiting until after the Congressional recess so that he looks good, but his statement is meaningless as no action can be taken on it. He’s no better than Pelosi and even more opportunistic, sucking up to the voters while not actually doing anything to solve their problems. He could have made this speech weeks ago and motivated Congressional Democrats to make compromises and find solutions, but like Pelosi he chose to put political advantage ahead of good policy
Our current energy problems descend directly from the failure of the Carter administration to respond to the energy crisis of that era with the establishment of a sound, long term policy. The Democrats exhibited poor leadership then and have failed us again this week, continuing their long history of putting their political power ahead of our financial welfare and national security. They would like us to buy their rhetoric and put the blame on the Republicans. The truth is that Republicans have been looking for real solutions, including some good, forward-looking proposals like the bipartisan energy bill proposed this week by Senate moderates. Of course, their proposal comes too late and will go nowhere, largely because of obstructions thrown up by Pelosi in the House and she seems bent on continuing to oppose solutions until after the election. Meanwhile, Obama can just sit back and cash in on her obstructionism at our expense.
I see some signs that make me hope that this year the voters might have finally woken up just a little bit. Maybe when they’re putting gas in their cars at $4.50 or $5 a gallon it will begin to dawn on them. Maybe the shock will help them see through the lies and posturing and place responsibility exactly where it belongs for this betrayal, on those who squandered the opportunity to do the right thing after 30 years of neglect for a little political capital and partisan power.