In the late George Carlin’s classic bit on the Seven Words You can’t Say on Radio or TV, he laments that there really are no “bad words,” only “bad thoughts” associated with certain words.
In 1994, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, employing a list of negative references to Democrats, Progressives and Liberals, was successful in getting the word “Liberal” to be taking in a very negative sense even though “Liberty” is a root of the term. President Obama’s address to the nation last night underscored that for Republicans, the word “compromise” is not only a dirty word, it’s a complete and unforgivable sin. If you look at the debt-ceiling plan offered by Democrats, Republicans in the House are getting more than they ever dreamed of. But because the idea was prosed by Democrats, it’s not acceptable.
Today’s New York Times lead editorial captures my thoughts on this exactly.
“House Republicans have lost sight of the country’s welfare. It’s hard to conclude anything else from their latest actions, including the House speaker’s dismissal of President Obama’s plea for compromise Monday night. They have largely succeeded in their campaign to ransom America’s economy for the biggest spending cuts in a generation. They have warped an exercise in paying off current debt into an argument about future spending. Yet, when they win another concession, they walk away.
This increasingly reckless game has pushed the nation to the brink of ruinous default. The Republicans have dimmed the futures of millions of jobless Americans, whose hopes for work grow more out of reach as government job programs are cut and interest rates begin to rise. They have made the federal government a laughingstock around the globe.
In a scathing prime-time television address Monday night, President Obama stepped off the sidelines to tell Americans the House Republicans were threatening a “deep economic crisis” that could send interest rates skyrocketing and hold up Social Security and veterans’ checks. By insisting on a single-minded approach and refusing to negotiate, he said, Republicans were violating the country’s founding principle of compromise.
“How can we ask a student to pay more for college before we ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries?” he said, invoking Ronald Reagan’s effort to make everyone pay a fair share and pointing out that his immediate predecessors had to ask for debt-ceiling increases under rules invented by Congress. He urged viewers to demand compromise. “The entire world is watching,” he said.
We agreed strongly when Mr. Obama said Americans should be “offended” by this display and that they “may have voted for divided government but they didn’t vote for a dysfunctional government.” It’s hard not to conclude now that dysfunction is the Republicans’ goal — even if the cost is unthinkable. “