Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Welcome Back, My Friends ...

... to the show that never ends.

If you thought the war was over when the House approved the Senate's version of the health care bill, you were wrong.

Oh, it had the aura of finality when congressional Democrats gathered to watch Barack Obama sign the bill into law. And one got the sense that many of the Democrats who supported health care reform sincerely wanted to smooth things over with their uncooperative Republican colleagues and move on to the next issue.

However, GOP lawmakers have been talking of tactics for overturning the health care legislation. No Republicans have talked about how the differences could be resolved the next time this is brought to a vote — and it seems all but certain that it will be.

That tends to confirm what I have believed for a long time, that these are people who cannot be appeased, and I really don't understand why Obama (who is an intelligent man) didn't figure that out a lot earlier.

Anyway, I wouldn't advise congressional Democrats to count on winning any Republican votes in that battle. OK, that's the way things have worked in America since the beginning.

But what some private citizens have been doing is a lot more threatening. There is no place for it in a civilized discussion, yet the Republican leadership appears to condone it by not denouncing it.

There is room for passion and honest disagreement in our national debate. I suspect the Founding Fathers would expect no less. But there is no room for what the Associated Press is reporting — vandalism against the property and threats against the lives of 10 Democratic lawmakers and their families.

And I am concerned by the same thing that concerns Rep. Louise Slaughter, one of the sponsors of the health care bill.

"It's more disturbing to me that Republican leadership has not condemned these attacks and instead appears to be fanning the flames with coded rhetoric," she said.

I agree with her. I am disturbed by that, too, but I am not really surprised. Republicans have been using "coded rhetoric" — with varying degrees of success — for decades. They're better at it than Democrats are. They know which buttons to push.

And they'll keep pushing them as long as they believe they can intimidate the opposition by doing so.

This is the sort of "politics as usual" that many voters believed they were rejecting in 2006 and 2008. Perhaps American voters are starting to realize that it will take several additional elections to purge the system of the kind of obstructionism that has taken up residence there. Unfortunately, it never really seems to sink in with Democratic leadership in Washington, including the guy sitting in the Oval Office.

I will admit, on a couple of occasions in the last year or so, Democrats in Washington have stood firmly against these reprehensible tactics. But they haven't always had the strength of their convictions.

This would be a good time for them to find that courage within themselves and keep it handy.

And it would be an excellent time for Republican leadership to repudiate what is being done in their name.

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