I ran into two disparate articles this morning, both are fascinating portraits of men not understanding the role of government or the responsibilities that should accompany elected power. I am afraid that both are glimpses into the Twenty-first Century’s Republican Party.
We found the first view in Bob Herbert’s Tuesday’s NYTimes’s column, titled “That’s Where the Money Is.” [Here] Herbert was commenting on the fact that if the Republicans gain a majority in the House of Representatives in this November’s midterm election, John Boehner, the current House minority leader, will doubtlessly become the new Speaker of the House.
Here is Bob Herbert’s memory of John Boehner from fifteen years ago:
I remember ...[a] day back in the mid-’90s when this slick, chain-smoking, quintessential influence-peddler decided to play Santa Claus by handing out checks from tobacco lobbyists to fellow Congressional sleazes right on the floor of the House.
It was incredible, even to some Republicans. The House was in session, and here was a congressman actually distributing money on the floor. Other, more serious, representatives were engaged in debates that day on such matters as financing for foreign operations and a proposed amendment to the Constitution to outlaw desecration of the flag. Mr. Boehner was busy desecrating the House itself by doing the bidding of big tobacco.
Embarrassed members of the G.O.P. tried to hush up the matter, but I ... called Mr. Boehner’s office. His chief of staff, Barry Jackson, was hardly contrite. ‘They were contributions from tobacco P.A.C.’s,’ he said.
When I asked why the congressman would hand the money out on the floor of the House,...’The floor,’ he said, ‘is where the members meet with each other.’
...The hack who once handed out checks on the House floor is now a coddled, gilded flunky of the nation’s big-time corporate elite.
Bob Herbert is obviously still outraged by Boehner’s behavior. He tells us that it is now illegal for such money transactions to take place on the House floor. But what about other places? Changing the venue of a money exchange from the House floor to, say, a country club (or a tanning salon) doesn’t change the nature of the exchange.
Democratic government should not be about paybacks and political contributions for favors rendered. In fact, what seems to have been forgotten in the current hysterical political discussions is the very purpose of government itself. And that brings me to the second article that I stumbled upon this morning.
Michael Moore, film-maker and political gadfly extraordinaire, led us to an incredible story that happened in Tennessee. [Here] It seems that the residents of Obion County, Tennessee, get its fire protection from the nearby city of South Fulton for an annual fee of $75 per household. The catch is that the fee is voluntary. (No money, no fire protection.)
Recently, a homeowner in Obion County called 911 to report that his home was on fire and to request the fire department’s help. The Department did not respond because that particular homeowner had not paid the fire protection fee. He called several more times but the department did not respond until a paying neighbor called, reporting that their house was in danger of catching fire.
The firefighters arrived and managed to save the neighbor’s house and their surrounding field. They refused, however, to touch the first house, but simply watched, hour by hour, as it continued to burn through the night.
These are folks who have forgotten what government is all about and what the proper function of taxes are. In fact, these are people who have forgotten what a sense of “community” should be. Not surprisingly, conservative authors have rushed to the defense of those firefighters who stood idly by with their equipment and watched a family’s house burn to ground. [Here]
Chilling, isn’t it? Just think of the government that John Boehner would like to preside over--an Obion County-like government which primarily serves the well-to-do and the privileged.
Compassionate Conservativism, anyone?