Thursday, December 23, 2010

What I Read Today - Thursday December 23, 2010

From: The New York Times

Lame Ducks Triumphant


Wow, we’re getting a new nuclear arms control treaty for Christmas. I know some of you were hoping for iPads. But still, big news.

Good work, White House! Thank heavens we got rid of our former president, Barack Obama, who couldn’t even get the trade agreement he went all the way to South Korea to sign. Our current president, Barack Obama, would never let that happen, and, in fact, came up with a really excellent trade agreement with the South Koreans just the other day.

“Administration officials have bent over backwards to try to solve every problem that’s come up,” said Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, one of the Republicans who reached across the aisle to get the New Start treaty with Russia ratified.

The treaty, which needed a two-thirds vote, was actually approved 71 to 26. The Democrats did not have to go scrambling madly around looking for one last vote. And even the opponents were winners since they got to spend more than a week beating up on the Russians, revisiting the golden days when life was simple and wars were cold.

“They cheat. They are serial cheaters,” said Senator James Risch of Idaho, the author of my favorite unsuccessful amendment to the treaty. It would have made the entire groundbreaking nuclear-reduction program contingent on the return of four American Humvees that the Russians picked up during their conflict with Georgia. Risch hauled out blowups of one of the enslaved military vehicles, shouting: “You can watch your property right here being towed away by the Russians! Back to Moscow!” If the former Red Menace wants to “hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya,’ ” he added, “Well, that is fine. But give us back our stolen military equipment.”

When was it that the singing of “Kumbaya” became a shorthand for weenieness? “Kumbaya” is an excellent campfire song, especially for groups that border on tone-deafness and don’t know the words to anything. I remember singing it in Girl Scout camp with friends who emerged unscathed and became conservative Republicans. Some may be writing letters protesting the New Start treaty at this very moment. Please, give “Kumbaya” a break.

But I digress. Nothing, not even Humvees in chains, was going to stop the progress of what has recently become known as the “hard-charging lame-duck Congress.” It is a perfect image, with its suggestion of a flock racing along in the clumsiest manner possible but still stumbling over the finish line.

“When it’s all going to be said and done, Harry Reid has eaten our lunch,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who called the hard-charging lame duck “a capitulation in two weeks of dramatic proportions.” This is the rapidly evolving new hyperpartisan Lindsey Graham, who was so ticked off at the fact that the Senate was devoting a mere eight days to the treaty that he told the antitreaty obstructionist Jon Kyl of Arizona: “I want to apologize to you for the way you’ve been treated by your colleagues.”

His Start-supporting fellow Republicans appeared quietly unrepentant. Perhaps they were afraid that if they said anything in response, Graham would continue his evolution into awfulness right there on the Senate floor and start gnawing on the ankles of elderly legislators.

Good work, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry. We appreciate the way you’ve evolved from one of the world’s worst presidential candidates into an extremely useful senator. Unlike some unsuccessful presidential candidates we could name.

Good work, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, the lone Republican who stuck with the treaty through thick and thin and never mutated into a scary new entity.

Good work, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Unlike your hapless predecessor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, you’ve had legislation shooting off to the White House like angry birds in that video game. Unemployment compensation! Gay rights! Food safety! Judicial appointments! Arms control! Health care for 9/11 responders!

But let’s admit it. Nothing would have gotten done if Obama hadn’t swallowed that loathsome compromise on tax cuts for the wealthy.

If he’d taken the high road, Congress would be in a holiday war. The long-term unemployed would be staggering into the new year without benefits. The rest of the world would look upon the United States as a country so dysfunctional that it can’t even ratify a treaty to help keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists. The people who worked at ground zero would still be uncertain about their future, and our gay and lesbian soldiers would still be living in fear.

It’s depressing to think that there was no way to win that would not have involved giving away billions of dollars to people who don’t need it. But it’s kind of cheery to think we have a president who actually does know what he’s doing.

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