I apologize for my absence these last few days. I have been flooded with birthday kindnesses from dear friends and relatives. The celebrations stretched out over time so that we lost track of the calendar. Even our dear Westie, my Chief of Staff, is exhausted. As I write, the much ballyhooed Hurricane Earl has turned into an anemic nor’easter, but not until it had broken untold numbers of week-end plans and severely hurt the local economy that depends on seasonal tourist dollars.
But apparently, the world didn’t stop functioning and, unfortunately, some of it quite badly. For example, the news media has seized upon a proposal to build an Islamic cultural center a few blocks from ground zero as an opportunity to create a great news story in the slow, slow, dog days of summer. The foolish politicians who are always eager for a chance to get their names and faces spread around have rushed in to do battle. We’ll watch this story as it flaps in the wind. There are underlying themes in this issue that must be worked out in our public discourse and perhaps this controversy will allow us to think more intelligently as similar issues arise in the future. The first one that comes to mind is: does our ideal of religious toleration only extend to Judaic-Christian beliefs or to all religions? We’ll return to this at a future time.
Now let’s deal with that penultimate curmudgeon, Alan Simpson, who has been spitting out some hateful words about Social Security and the elderly. He was appointed Co-Chair of the President’s Debt Reduction Commission and as such, should have had enough sense to keep his mouth shut. But then again, Alan Simpson has always been a stranger to discretion. Adding to his problems (for him and for the Commission) is that he made his comments into a camera [Here] and days later wrote other things in an email. [Here]
His on-camera remarks were made as he was coming out of a Commission meeting. In his remarks he referred to those dependent on Social Security as “lesser people.” Days later, when he wrote an email to Ashley Carson, the executive director of the Older Women’s League (OWL), he ended the message in which he claimed that he was actually defending Social Security, by writing:
...I've made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree. You know 'em too. It's the same with any system in America. We've reached a point now where it's like a milk cow with 310 million tits! Call when you get honest work!
The obvious outrageous sexism, agism, and elitism in Simpson’s email bounced through cyberspace. Petitions calling for his resignation were distributed by email, even as Simpson sent an apology to Carson. However, the White House stood by their man, although Press Secretary Gibbs said that the administration “regretted” that he had made those comments.
The Simpson blatherings have at least focused our attention on the Commission that he co-chairs. As we have pointed out before, the Commission, selected by the President, is decidedly stacked against our present Social Security system and its report which is due by December should be awaited with great anxiety.
Alan Simpson’s personal history gives us a clue about some origins of his arrogance. Like another fellow Republican, he was born with a silver foot in his mouth. (Perhaps in deference to Simpson’s Wyoming roots, we should say “silver boot.”) His father, Milward Stimpson, served one term as the Governor of Wyoming (1955-59) and then one term as Wyoming’s Senator. By the way, while in the Senate, Milward Simpson joined Barry Goldwater and four other Republican Senators in voting against the Civil Rights Act. (Is contrariness genetic?)
And the Simpson beat continues. Colin Simpson, one of Alan’s two lawyer sons, just lost the Republican nomination for Wyoming governor, but don’t fret. I am sure we’ll hear more from young Colin in the future.
But wouldn’t it be grand if we heard less from his father?