Thursday, December 09, 2010

on politics: a picture speaks a thousand words


I had zero intention of writing a blog post today, but this photo wouldn't let me go. It so perfectly encapsulates the serious frustration I've been feeling toward our government this year. It was taken moments after a bill to extend health benefits to 9/11 responders—the very "heroes" that members of the Grand Old Party have invoked time and again in the wake of that tragic event—was blocked by Republicans from entering a full vote in the U.S. Senate. At left, New York's junior Senator Kirsten Gillibrand seems utterly defeated, while her colleague and mentor Charles Schumer, NY's senior Senator, tries to console. One can only imagine the words between them at that moment. I'm reminded of that scene in Lost in Translation...you know the one. It doesn't matter what he said to her, and you don't need to know because you get the gist.

Sadly, it was just the first major blow for the two, and especially the junior Senator, on this day. Hours later, the Senate GOP blocked another vote, this time on a bill that included a provision Gillibrand had put her full force behind, a repeal of the military's discriminatory Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. Even the recently despicable Joe Lieberman of Connecticut had gotten behind this one! And yet most of the rest of the Senate's conservative wing refused to set aside "procedural niceties," as one blogger so eloquently put it, to ensure equal rights for all our service men and women. W...T...F?

But back to the picture. Schumer, the sage elder who you can tell here has been around the Congressional block a few times, may be more adept at this point at swallowing defeat, and it's heartwarming to see him encouraging his counterpart to keep her chin up. Gillibrand is a young, energetic Democrat, elected to the Senate just last month after serving two years in the seat Hillary Clinton vacated when she became Secretary of State. I can't help but feel that Gillibrand in this photo represents what most Democrats are feeling these days: growing disappointment and disillusionment in the wake of what seemed so promising back in 2008. To be sure, it's nothing new for me to get annoyed with Republicans. And I freely admit that an unfocused Democratic caucus shoulders a certain amount of blame for recent events. But the GOP obstructionism has gotten totally and completely out of hand. I recently saw a blog post explaining how today's Republican strategies closely resemble those of Cold War-era Soviets. They include:
Taking extreme starting positions
Employing emotional tactics such as exasperation, or getting angry and storming out of the room
Viewing concessions by the adversary as a sign of weakness
Delaying giving concessions and then only giving very small amounts
Paying no attention to deadlines
In other words, they're being little brats! And hypocritical little brats at that; see 2:31 in this short video on GOP obstructionism. The poster went on to quote (a hardly liberal) David Brooks:
"[My] problem with the Republican Party right now ... is that if you offered them 80-20, they'd say no. If you offered them 90-10, they’d say no. If you offered them 99-1 they’d say no. And that’s because we’ve substituted governance for brokerism, for rigidity that Ronald Regan didn’t have."
Sigh. Anyway, as I tweeted earlier, hang in there, Senator Gillibrand, and keep fighting the good fight—even though I get that it might feel right now like you're smacking your head against a slab of cold concrete. To put things in a completely random perspective (and I know you're probably a Yankees fan but go with me for a second), this is sorta how we Mets fans feel every year. We deal. We pick up. We carry on and try again tomorrow. By the way, I hear you turned 44 today...here's hoping a few birthday drinks were able to numb the pain.

Photo by Drew Angerer for The New York Times

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