Thursday, February 19, 2009

E.J. Dionne: Good news and bad news

E.J. DIONNE JR., the first-tier Washington Post columnist  with markedly  progressive tendencies,  brought good news and bad news to the lectern at the Akron Roundtable luncheon Thursday.  He was quick to remind one of the larger turnouts in the airy ballroom of the Tangier the economy is as bad as most of us know it is, but the happier side of great crises is that they often bring out the best in all of us.  In his opening remarks, he reflected on something that former  Defense Secretary William Cohen, a Republican who served in the Clinton cabinet during the span of the second term, once said about the unshakable  critics of government: "Government is your enemy until you need a friend."   

(What is it about those folks from Maine -  which Cohen  once served as a U.S. Senator - to be ahead of the Republican curve, as are Sens. Collins and Snowe, who are already being branded by some of  their GOP colleagues as adulterers?)  Speaking to an audience made up mostly from  business people and professionals,   many of whom would not be expected to show up at a Democratic dogs 'n suds event, Dionne was gentle in his circumspect criticism of the Republican congressmen and their very conservative outlook in using President Obama as a king-size dart board in these days of horrible national stress.  "I hope,"he said, "we will have a little more partisan respect..." in dealing across the aisle.

That, of course, remains to forever  be seen.   The bombast from  the Republican pols on the stimulus package cast them as little more than foolish cranks guided by  the cantankerous eruptions of Rush Limbaugh, whose legacy to broadcast journalism  is laced with such x-rated notions that Parkinson's Disease can be a put-on, or Glenn Beck, who dismissed autism as  99 pct. fakery.  Yet few of their disciples on Capitol Hill have had the courage to denounce such nonsense. Instead, we can all remember the dreadful Georgia  congressman who abjectly begged forgiveness from Limbaugh.  At the same time, another congressman,  Republican House whip Eric Cantor,  doesn't hesitate to throw rose petals at Limbaugh's feet. 

On a more clinical level by a keen political scientist, Dionne did say he was puzzled  by something that occurred in John McCain's presidential campaign.  He said he didn't understand why McCain left the campaign to head back to Washington to work on the economic crises.  "In so doing,"  Dionne noted,  McCain simply put his campaign "in the hands of a congress controlled by Democrats."    For Dionne, it was a failed decision that probably cost the Republican senator any hope of winning.

But to witness McCain's caustic attacks on Obama now, you'd think he was still hoping for a recount.   It doesn't make any sense to me.  He's trying to lay down a bunt after the other side just enjoyed a grand slam.  


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