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Columns

April 24, 2010

Being against it, whatever it is, isn't good enough

I don't know what they have to say,

It makes no difference anyway _

Whatever it is, I'm against it!

No matter what it is or who commenced it,

I'm against it.


Groucho immortalized those words in the opening song written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby for the Marx Brothers' 1932 classic "Horsefeathers."

(If you haven't ever seen it, I suppose you are more to be pitied than censured. But you can catch Groucho's number here: www.youtube.com/

watch?v=DtMV44yoXZ0.)



"Whatever it is, I'm against it" could be the theme for what the Republicans and their bastard child, the Tea Party, have been up to in Washington since Barack Obama moved into the White House.

Their numbers whittled by the thrashing they took in the elections of 2006 and 2008 _ congressional Republicans made up their minds early on that if Obama was for something, they were going to oppose it.

Not one Republican in the House of Representatives voted for the president's economic stimulus package, and the Democrats were able to wheedle just three Republican votes for it in the Senate.

Of course, one was Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, who a short time later switched parties because his prospects were bleak in a Republican primary.

The next big thing for Obama was the health care overhaul. For more than a year, he compromised on major aspects of it, risked offending his liberal base by removing a public option, and incorporated many Republican ideas into the legislation.

The result from the GOP? Well, just take it from Groucho:

Your proposition may be good

But let's have one thing understood

Whatever it is, I'm against it!

And even when you've changed it or condensed it,

I'm against it.


The Republicans remembered what happened during Bill Clinton's first term when their efforts, combined with a slick advertising campaign by the health care industry, destroyed Hillary Clinton's reform plan and paid off big-time in the 1994 midterm elections.

Republicans captured the House and the Senate back then, and now, if they could only make Obama look as politically impotent as Clinton seemed, the wind would certainly be at their backs.

After a victory in overwhelmingly Democratic Massachusetts to fill the Senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy, the Republican strategy of being the "Party of 'no" seemed to be working splendidly.

Former Republican vice presidential candidate and current Tea Party princess Sarah Palin went so far as to say in a speech: "Party of no? Nah. We're the party of 'hell no!"

Not one Republican in the House.

Not one Republican in the Senate.

Not one voted for Obama's health care reform bill that _ among other things _ expands coverage to millions of Americans, brings down costs, and forbids exclusion of coverage for those with a pre-existing medical condition.

Of course, it wasn't a matter of politics. No sir, it all came down to principle.

I'm opposed to it _

On general principles I'm opposed to it!

(Chorus): He's opposed to it!

In fact, in word, in deed,

He's opposed to it!


But unlike 1994, the Democrats got their act together enough to pass Obama's health care bill amid wild charges by the GOP _ and especially the Tea Party _ of socialism, communism and anti-Americanism.

I'm a big fan of the First Amendment, which guarantees "the right of the people peaceably to assemble." But I don't think much of those who are just against everything the government does without offering any solutions.

Tea Partiers _ who several polls show are overwhelming Republican _ say their taxes are too high. Fine, then what services are they willing to give up for lower taxes?

They say government spending is out of control, but where were all the Tea Parties when the George W. Bush administration was taking us from big budget surpluses to massive debt?

At best, they are citizens to be applauded for at least getting involved. At worst, they have become a haven for those who bay at the moon and call it patriotism.

A week ago, a punk named William Gheen, who is the president of ALIPAC, an anti-immigration organization, gave a petty, name-calling, hateful speech to a Tea Party gathering in Greenville, S.C.

Gheen used the forum to very publicly accuse Lindsey Graham _ a fairly moderate but proudly partisan Republican senator from that state _ of being a homosexual.

Graham has been an intelligent voice in seeking workable immigration reform, and that apparently infuriated Gheen.

What Gheen did at the Tea Party was despicable.

Graham's sexual preferences are nobody's business but his own. But there has been nary a word of condemnation from the Tea Party _ or from Republicans cravenly seeking the group's support in the 2010 elections.

The Tea Party is a branch of the Republican Party, much like talk radio, Rush Limbaugh and the commentators on Fox News. Make no mistake, despite their denials, elements of the GOP gave birth to the movement and now nurture it.

For months before my son was born,

I used to yell from night till morn,

Whatever it is, I'm against it!

And I've kept yelling since I commenced it,

I'm against it!


It's not enough to just be against everything. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to be for something.

The Tea Partiers seem to think anger is a sufficient or even any kind of an argument.

Well ... horsefeathers!

Sam Pollak is the editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at spollak@thedailystar.com or at (607) 432-1000, ext. 208.

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