Who Broke the Government?

September 26th, 2011 at 11:06 am David Frum | 186 Comments |

| Print

In my column for CNN, I explain why government institutions are failing:

Under the old rules, there were certain things that political parties did not do — even though theoretically they could. If one party controlled the Senate and another party controlled the presidency, the Senate party did not reject all the president’s nominees. The party that controlled the House did not refuse to schedule votes on the president’s budgets. Individual senators did not use secret holds to sway national policy. The filibuster was reserved for rare circumstances — not as a routine 60-vote requirement on every Senate vote.

It’s incredible to look back now on how the Reagan tax cut passed the Democratic House in 1981. The Democratic House leaderships could have refused to schedule votes on Reagan’s tax plans. Instead, they not only allowed the tax plan to proceed — but they allowed 48 of 243 Democrats to break ranks on the key procedural vote without negative consequences to their careers in the Democratic party. (Rep. Dan Glickman of Kansas, for example, who voted for the tax cuts would rise to become Secretary of Agriculture under President Clinton.)

Hard to imagine Speaker John Boehner allowing his Republicans to get away with similar behavior on a measure proposed by President Obama.

What’s happening before our eyes is that the US congressional system is adopting the attitudes of a Westminster-style parliamentary system.

In a parliamentary system, “the duty of an opposition is to oppose” (in the famous words of Benjamin Disraeli). The opposition uses every trick and technique to thwart and defeat the government; the government uses all the powers of a parliamentary majority to overwhelm the opposition. (To quote Disraeli again: “a majority is always better than the best repartee.”)

Then, at regular intervals, the two sides switch roles.

In the American system, there is no “government” and no “opposition.” Who would lead such a “government”? President Obama? Or the man in command of the majority in the lower House — Prime Minister John Boehner?

Click here to read the full column.


Recent Posts by David Frum



186 Comments so far ↓

  • Dragonfly

    “Who broke the government?”

    The Democrats.

    • Dragonfly

      Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress had us at 4.6% unemployment, even after 2 major economic disasters – 9/11 and Katrina.

      The Democrats took control of both houses of Congress on Jan. 3, 2007 – 11 months later the country went into a recession.

      President Rubberstamp aka Owebummer got in then super-sized the mess.

      • PracticalGirl

        Unemployment spiraled during Bush’s tenure not because of the Democrat legislature, but because of his sustained, unworkable economic policies. Bush set the agenda, and here’s the result:

        4.3% in January 2001
        6.3% in June 2003
        4.4% in March 2007
        6.1% in August 2008
        7.2% in December 2008
        From December 2007 when the recession started to December 2008, an additional 3.6 million people became unemployed.
        As of January 1, 2009, his last month in office, the nation lost 655,000 jobs, raising the unemployment rate to 7.8%, the highest level in more than 15 years and continue to spiral upward.

        His major, shining star- his tax cuts- also gave us this:

        Fiscal year (begins
        10/01 of prev. year) Value % of GDP
        2001 $144.5 billion 1.4%
        2002 $409.5 billion 3.9%
        2003 $589.0 billion 5.5%
        2004 $605.0 billion 5.3%
        2005 $523.0 billion 4.3%
        2006 $536.5 billion 4.1%
        2007 $459.5 billion 3.4%
        2008 $962.0 billion 6.8%

        Much of this debt was accumulated as a direct result of us borrowing money to fund the tax cuts…And the costs of these cuts continue to skyrocket.

        Your narrative doesn’t work. Bush may not have “broken” the government, but his policies did break the country.

        • Dragonfly

          You made my point for me – according to your figures unemployment did’n't rise until AFTER the Democrats took control of both houses.

          As for the debt – ya, 9/11 and Katrina major economic disasters being handled but your figures show improvement taking shape until AFTER the Democrats took control of both houses – going from 3.4% to 6.8%, and we all know where it went from there – skyrocket.

      • mikewaz

        Would you care to explain to us what laws the Democratic Party majority in Congress passed in those 11 months that directly led to the recession? Or was it simply that the big banks all collectively decided to pee their pants because they were afraid of what the boogeyman was going to do to their profit margins?

        • Dragonfly

          I have two words for you – Frank and Dodd.

        • overshoot

          “I have two words for you – Frank and Dodd.”

          I knew bankers had a lot of power, but I never dreamed that they could crash the economy in late 2007 over a law that wasn’t passed until July of 2010 in response to the crash.

      • Banty

        “Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress had us at 4.6% unemployment, even after 2 major economic disasters – 9/11 and Katrina… blah blah”

        This is the nonsense, with cherry-picked dates, some relating to a Democratic congress (when it behooves you), some relating to a Democratic president (when it behooves you), that is smeared all across every newspaper comments section and Facebook argument and clutters email inboxes all across the nation. But no amount of refuting this stuff stems this tide. All I can do is note that you’re among the mindless distributors of this stuff.

        But it’s not only Democratic party partisans who can see through that garbage – Republican presidents have vetoes; the very ruthless exercise of power David Frum describes by Republicans in the House in this article have hamstrung action today. And people know that in 2009 Obama inherited a crashing economy, and by a wide margin in every poll I’ve seen, blame the Bush administration. That’s independents like me, many Republicans as well.

        • Dragonfly

          “4.4% in March 2007
          6.1% in August 2008
          7.2% in December 2008″

          These are someone else’s dates used in this thread.

          The Dems took control in 2007 and unemployment went up since.

          U. S. News & World Report (not a conservative mag.) wrote that the Obama administration fudged the numbers and we are really at 19% unemployment.

          I say we’re probably at 22% – this does not count the millions who are on furloughs (less hours with less pay), and the millions who haven’t seen a raise in a few years.

        • Banty

          Well Dragon this is the kind of post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc stuff that had people pinning every stock drop on Obama, then disappearing into silence when the stock market recovered, still under Obama.

          You have said nothing about any mechanism that would tie unemployment to a 2006 Democratic congress. And, naturally, that the number now is 9.1%, and we have a Republican House, doesn’t rise to the level of being included in your little game. This is silly fallacious bs.

      • armstp

        I am not sure how Frank or Dodd resulted in the massive economic collapse. It is the captain the is driving the ship who is responsible. Can you explain Frank or Dobb brought down the U.S. economy? Love to hear it.

        • Dragonfly

          Led by Frank the Democratic party brought down the banking industry by forcing banks to give loans to people who couldn’t afford them, then he blunted the Republican attempts to regulate the industry.
          Frank aggressively fought reform efforts by the Bush administration. He told The New York Times on Sept. 11, 2003, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s problems were “exaggerated.” Exaggerated? Thanks to Fannie and Freddie the housing market collapsed and we fell into this “great recession.”

          Frank: “These two entities – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – are not facing any kind of financial crisis,” Frank Opined to the Times. “The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.”

          We all know right well how it all turned out – the biggest housing and banking mess in our lifetimes.

        • overshoot

          I’m truly impressed that Fannie and Freddy could force banks in Ireland and Spain to loan funds to people in those countries.

    • Carney

      Dragonfly, to his credit, is calling the Democrats by their actual name now, instead of using an obscene epithet.

      You should do the same in calling the Tea Party by its own name.

      • Smargalicious

        Tea Bag: “To slap one’s balls on another’s forehead.” http://www.teabagged.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogsection&id=2

        “FrumForum.com encourages robust and lively, but civil participation from our readers. By posting here, you agree to the FrumForum.com terms of service. You agree to keep your comments on topic, respectful and free of gratuitous profanity. While we do not censor comments based on political or ideological point of view, comments that are abusive, engage in personal attacks, contain racist, sexist, homophobic or other slurs, express hatred, are off-topic, use excessive foul language, or include any other type of ad hominem attacks (including comments that celebrate the death or illness of any person, public figure or otherwise) will be subject to removal.”

        • balconesfault

        • Banty

          Early on, Tea Partiers did use the appellation “tea bag”, then when this was pointed out, was careful to go to ‘Tea Party’. Rachel Maddow had a field day with this back in 2009.

      • SteveT

        Carney is right. I detest the Tea Party, but we can use the name they call themselves.

      • Primrose

        President Rubberstamp is calling them by their right name?

    • PracticalGirl

      Dragonfly:

      “Frank and Dodd were the chairmen of the finance and banking committees – guess which two areas took a major nosed-dive that put us in the terrible position we are in – yup, banking and housing.

      Bush took it to them 17 times to quit allowing their buddies at Frannie and Freddie to underwrite loans to people who were not qualified…”

      If Bush was so prescient, if he “knew” of the impending banking and housing troubles, why did he make as his centerpiece the “homeowner society” in which HIS policies of Low Down and No Down- decimating protective banking and loan rules that had kept the housing market for 70 years- were first pushed heavily as “the answer” and then presented to Congress…Sponsored by Republicans?

      While you’re at it, the majority of the defaulted loans that precipitated the housing crash…When and under what rules were they written?

      • Dragonfly

        By law, Congress controls the purse-strings of the nation.

        Under a Republican-controlled Congress the nation was doing well.

        When the Democrats took control of both houses of Congress the nation went to hell in a handbasket.

        Clinton got to look good because most of his tenure saw a Republican-controlled Congress.

        • PracticalGirl

          Oh, Lord…I’m amending my statement. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans broke government. People like you did with your stubborn clinging to nonfactual rhetoric.

          OK. Let’s play your game. The American Dream Downpayment Act…Put forth due to Republican Presidential agenda, sponsored by Republicans and passed by a Republican-controlled Congress. Severely damaging- a great percentage of the defaulted loans that precipitated the massive slide downward through default and foreclosures were written under these new rules. Zero Down Payment Act…Which party brought that forth? Which party- supported by Republican President Bush- CONTINUED to push it forth in 2006, even as the housing slide had begun in earnest?

          So- who broke the housing market, which in turn helped crash the economy? Turn off talk radio propaganda and do some research. You’ve already stated that Bush and Co “knew there was trouble”, yet GOPers continued to push, push, push for destabilizing laws. Can’t you even allow for the possibility that the Republicans have a great responsibility for destabilizing a market that had been relatively stable for 70 years?

          And really, speaking of banking disasters…The Republican Congress was so superfine in 1999, when they decimated the Glass Steagall Act? Just which party can claim Graham, Leach and Bliley? I suppose THAT one, you’re ready to put onto a President, since he was a Democrat…

          Your arguments fail at every level.

        • Dragonfly

          A Financial Reform Bill and Tarp resulted from what Frank and Dodd did, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

      • Banty

        To be fair, Fannie and Freddie did jump on the securitization bandwagon – late in the game, when it was argued that their conservatism regarding mortgages was denying taxpayers the opportunity.

        But the majority of the problem was with private lenders, and it was AIG and others with CDO’s and CDS’s that blew this up to national-economy drowning levels.

        Should we get rid of Fannie and Freddie? Yes (and BTW Frank has said so), but after we’ve wound down the whole mortgage mess.

        • jollyroger

          But, you see, it was Barney and Tom who crept into the White House in the dead of night, forged Bush’s signature on notes to his regulatory appointees, directing them on pain of termination to do absolutely nothing to stem the mounting real estate bubble. Likewise he threatened the overseer of the GSE’s, etc. And, of course, the SEC was just getting ready to go after the derivatives issue, when, once again, forged directions, etc.

          Hence, blame Frank and Dodd.

    • PracticalGirl

      Facts put to your face, and you simply move on to another point you think you can win, since your ridiculous assertions have been proved wrong. Nah, your precious Republican party who broke a market or two in half and begged for passage of TARP (on behalf of banks, and screw the people) can’t possibly have even shared responsibility for a broken economy. 4.2 trillion dollars in residential real estate value lost is nothing to sneeze at.

      Such a typical response, and the reason I stand by my statement: The American voters who refuse to look at the whole and allow their own to avoid any and all culpability- you are responsible for our broken government. Of the people, by the people and all that.

      • Dragonfly

        Frank and Dodd were at the helm and created a banking and housing meltdown.

        TARP was written and passed by the Dem-controlled Congress to bail out what Frank and Dodd did.

        Then a Financial Reform Bill had to be written and passed so that we don’t end up making that horrible mistake again.

        You can rant about all the grey in between the black and white until the cows come home – it ain’t going to change the bottom line – Frank and Dodd, along with a Dem-controlled Congress, jocked America. President Rubberstamp aka Owebummer super-sized it.

        Now that the GOP has control of the house – stalemate for the most part – not getting much better, but it’s not getting worse, as it would if the Dems still controlled all three, as they had.

        • Banty

          “TARP was written and passed by the Dem-controlled Congress to bail out what Frank and Dodd did.”

          See, this is the kind of time-line cherry picking “who was (in congress, president, dog catcher, whatever) is who dunnit” rhetoric which is so silly, so ignorant.

          Hank Paulson practically wrote the TARP, and literally begged Congress to pass it. It was fundamentally a creature of the Bush administration.

          But, it’s useless to tell you that …

    • rockstar

      The Democrats when they shot down Bork. That was when politics became bloodsport, as far as I can tell.

      • balconesfault

        Why pick that … and not the Republican filibuster of Abe Fortas?

        • Steve D

          Fortas was not denied a seat on the Supreme Court and the cloture vote to end the filibuster (against making him Chief Justice) was opposed by 24 Republicans and 19 Democrats – pretty non-partisan. And Fortas later stepped down from the Court because of some dubious fees he accepted.

          Bork’s Senate vote was supported by two Democrats and opposed by 52.

        • jollyroger

          Nah, it all went to hell when Spiro Agnew got caught. Once the word got around that you could buy the Vice President for roughly the cost of one meal a week at a two star michelin restaurant, it was all downhill.

    • Banty

      What he’s spewing is boilerplate stuff – he hasnt’ asked any questions about it; he doesn’t care to.

      Reminds me of the emails I would get from acquaintances of my father, since they would copy-to-all anything relating to anything, with the latest political rant that was going around. They’d get real irritated if I’d respond with a link to Snopes. Don’t confuse them with facts.

      • Steve D

        I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten an e-mail solemnly announcing “This has been verified by Snopes.” So I go to Snopes, and nine times out of ten it’s not only not verified but flat out debunked.

        • jollyroger

          Well give them credit for knowing about Snopes, and figuring that some fools will be too lazy to check, so a patina of verisimilitude is achieved. (ed note:patina of verisi- what?)

    • Elvis Elvisberg

      Here are some places to start:
      http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2011/08/no-evidence-that-government-housing-policy-caused-the-crisis.html

      http://modeledbehavior.com/2010/08/27/fannie-freddie-acquitted/

      http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2008/10/23/31194/mica-waxman/

      http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2008/10/12/53802/private-sector-loans-not-fannie.html

      Long story short– F&F actually lost market share during the housing bubble, as non-gov’t firms relaxed their lending standards. F&F were victims of the housing bubble. The higher number of Alt-A and Interest Only loans combined with ultimately higher delinquency rates have meant that a plurality of losses have come from these two categories. These loans were vulnerable not because the borrowers were poor low-credit individuals that the government was taking pity upon but because the loan concepts were predicated on rising or at least stable housing prices. Only one of the top 25 subprime lenders in 2006 was directly subject to the CRA.

      Those are the facts. Some people are deliberately lying about those facts– see, e.g., http://rortybomb.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/the-fcic-investigation-wallison-on-the-gses-and-the-conservative-echo-chamber/

      • PracticalGirl

        F&F were victims of the housing bubble.

        Perfect. Please tell me you’ve dropped this little truism on the folks at RedState, just to see the meltdown.

  • Elvis Elvisberg

    The problem is, our institutions aren’t designed for Westminster politics. The president and the Congress both have claims of democratic legitimacy. So if the GOP chooses to engage in unprecedented obstructionism– turning the filibuster into a routine vote, putting holds on all the president’s nominees, refusing to schedule votes, etc.– the GOP manages to ruin the institutional balance that has served us pretty well for the past couple centuries.

    This is no small danger, btw. http://thinkprogress.org/yglesias/2010/11/21/199148/the-perils-of-presidential-democracy-revisited/

    we find ourselves several congresses into a brave new world in which every single Democratic Party legislator is to the left of every single Republican Party legislator. In terms of partisan politics, in other words, we’ve become a normal country. But as Linz observed, the “normal” outcome for a country with our political institutions and ideologically sorted parties is constitutional crisis and a collapse into dictatorship.

    ADDED: I disagree with your attributing the relative comity of the pre-Gingrich era to the Cold War. I think a better way to describe the history is that the parties gradually and steadily aligned by ideology in the wake of desegregation. By the 1990s, this process was just about complete. So now, we get the polarization that national political parties are “supposed to” (given other countries’ experiences) produce.

    Now on top of that, we see a Republican Party that has completely abandoned rational political views in exchange for the emotion of being part of a tribe. (That’s not an exaggeration: name two or three things they’ve prioritized highly and been consistent on over the past 15 years). It’s not really a good thing for the country.

    • Carney

      You want emotion? Look up the NAACP ad with James Byrd’s daughter comparing Bush’s opposition to piling on redundant “hate crime” charges onto Byrd’s murderers (later executed, what more do you want??) as the equivalent of herself being dragged behind the truck all over again. Look up the radio ads with announcers comparing voting for Bush (who ran his 2000 campaign basically on a platform of increasing black children’s test scores) to burning crosses and lynching.

      • Elvis Elvisberg

        One ad from a lobbying group != obstruction every single day in the legislature from one of the two major political parties.

        • Carney

          Merely two highly representative data points plucked from a massive, constant, ongoing pattern of the most extreme imaginable incitement that never ends, enabled by MSM silence.

          And what was done to Bush in his term was the exact same thing. Dems began the game of never going out of session so as to deny Bush recess appointment ability. Dems denied Bush trade negotiation authority which had been routine for decades. Dems brutally attacked Sam Alito to the point his wife was in tears, and smeared Miguel Estrada to a degree his wife committed suicide.

        • Elvis Elvisberg

          Sigh.

          what was done to Bush in his term was the exact same thing.

          No.

          Remember, the Democrats weren’t that tough on Bush’s nominations generally.

          Reid has not been particularly tough on Bush’s appointments so far. He voted to confirm Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State and even announced that he would probably support Scalia as Chief Justice if William Rehnquist retired and Bush wanted him. He didn’t push for a filibuster against Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General, despite the opposition of all eight Democrats on the Judiciary Committee.

          http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/08/08/050808fa_fact

          Contrast this with the GOP’s obstructionism, e.g. of federal judges and of Nobel Prize winner Peter Diamond, simply because they can.

          Dems denied Bush trade negotiation authority which had been routine for decades.

          No. See Business Week, Oct. 10, 1997: “a top Republican lawmaker says fast-track legislation is “dying on the vine” because Democratic support for it is so tepid. And House GOP leaders aren’t pressing colleagues to support fast track, he says. They don’t want to force Republican lawmakers to take a stand on an issue that is politically unpopular in many parts of the country without the political cover of more Democratic backing.”

          Dems brutally attacked Sam Alito to the point his wife was in tears

          This is false. She cried during Sen. Lindsey Graham’s maudlin overdramatization of the Democrats’ questioning. (Imagine the reaction of the Cavutos and Hannitys and Smargaliciouses if, say, Al Franken had reduced, say, Sonia Sotomayor to tears by a dramatic, weepy recounting of how mean the Republicans are. The National Review would have a “Cryin’ Lyin’ Sonia” caricature on the front cover, maybe for three months straight).

          smeared Miguel Estrada to a degree his wife committed suicide.

          Bush nominated Estrada, who had no judicial experience. Wanting to know what his views were– because a federal judge gets to serve for life– the Democrats asked for some of Estrada’s memos as a Bush Jr. adviser. The administration refused. So he wasn’t confirmed.

          For you to attribute a tragic suicide to that non-confirmation is an unusually cynical effort to exploit a woman’s death, even for a Republican. You should be ashamed.

        • SteveT

          I saw the hearing on c-span about Alito. His wife ran crying from the room because he was being QUESTIONED politely about his views on abortion.

          These are people who sentence others to death, some innocent, would deny women the chance for an abortion under any circumstances and cry when their feelings get hurt by minor questions.

        • Primrose

          We never accused Bush’s wife of murder, even though she actually killed someone. As for ads, what of accusing a man who has served during wartime two tours of being a fake, and less patriotic than two people who evaded service? What of the the disgusting ads put out to beat Ann Richardson back when he was running for governor? Or spreading the rumor that John McCain (another man who had valiantly served his country) of having an illegitimate black child? Or permitting his people to out a CIA operative (putting not just her but many other in danger) in order to discredit her husband?

          What of the wolves ads? What of the fact that anyone who disagreed with Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney was told they were not patriotic of a good citizen?

          I’m sorry but I do not cry a river for Mr. Bush. It is like a gossip being offended because someone told tales against them. Mr. Bush engaged in the worst of the worst politics (or at any rate allowed his people too).

          And as I have said before, if you are willing to play off people’s racism to get elected, you are a racist yourself because you are unwilling to see the people you harm as people but only symbols to be used. George Wallace was actually on known to be unusually respectful to African-Americans one on one but once he decided to use racism as an election strategy, he became one.

          Mr. Bush may have no personal animosity, toward African-Americans, I have no idea. However, he has no more problem using it to get elected than his father did. Charges of racism are fair.

        • torourke

          And every living former SG, both Democratic and Republican, signed onto a letter denouncing the Democrats’ extreme fishing expedition. Of course, an internal memo leaked from Dick Durbin’s staff showing the real reason why Estrada was filibustered–he was a Latino. And Democrats were terrified of Republicans putting the first Latino onto the SC. So they engaged in an unprecedented level of obstructionism. Now, according to you, this sort of behavior is impossible. Democrats never exhibit any sort of tribal behavior, and only make decisions based on calm consideration of the facts at hand. Only someone living in a bubble would actually think this.

        • Elvis Elvisberg

          Democrats never exhibit any sort of tribal behavior, and only make decisions based on calm consideration of the facts at hand.

          I never said anything of the sort.

          I said that the Republican Party– the party, up til January 2009, of Medicare Part D, of Dick “deficits don’t matter” Cheney turning surpluses into deficits, of No Child Left Behind, of Raich v. Gonzales, of invading an arbitrarily selected Middle Eastern country then botching the occupation, of “Justice Sunday”, of warrantless wiretapping and chargeless detention of American citizens; and the party, today, of ending Medicare, of holding the economy “hostage” (Mitch McConnell’s term) in the debt ceiling debacle, of unprecedented obstructionism of the president’s nominees, of the “original intent” of the Constitution– has no policy views, only tribalism.

          There is no counterargument. That’s why you talk about one filibuster the Democrats pursued that you don’t like.

        • torourke

          No counter-argument? I’m just getting warmed up. Let’s start with Medicare Part D, which liberals like you constantly whine about. Here’s the thing. In 2003, a prescription drug benefit was a really, really popular idea, even in conservative districts, and the people who favored it were not clamoring for offsetting tax hikes or spending cuts. Republicans could have ignored the voters, giving Democrats another issue for 2004, and then watched as they passed their own unpaid for program (which is exactly what the Dems would have done). Or they could have passed the best program they could in their view, with some free-market aspects, and waited for a more favorable environment to challenge the entitlement culture. Now it’s 2011, and the chief actuary of Medicare has informed Congress that the Medicare Trust Fund has about ten years left before it runs out of money.
          So now what to do? Pass the Ryan budget and try to deal with the problem, which is mainly getting the American people to realize how awful the mid-term and long-term fiscal situations are. See here’s the thing, the reason we are in the fiscal state we find ourselves, is because the American people love their tax hikes without offsetting spending cuts and their unpaid for entitlement programs. And both parties have delivered, kicking the can down the road for future Congresses. Now the CMS and the CBO have put out the warning signs that it is time to get serious about our debt situation. The Republicans, thanks to the influx of Tea Partiers, are now getting serious about it–to a certain extent. The Democrats? Not so much. So whining about Medicare Part D is pointless. Democrats would have passed their own unpaid for program, and anyone who says otherwise is lying. Their stated objections at the time it passed were that it did not allow for the reimportation of drugs from Canada, and was allegedly a windfall for private insurance companies–not that it was not paid for. The real reason they were so pissed was that Republicans were stealing their ideas and running on them. They should have been overjoyed to see Republicans passing entitlements and then campaigning on them. Talk about an ideological victory for liberals. Republicans exhibited the same sort of behavior when Clinton signed welfare reform.

          So Republicans do have a policy view, confront the entitlement culture and try to reform Medicare.

          You’re going to have to explain to me how NCLB is an example of a Republican party that does not care about policy. In your explanation, be sure to factor in two things. First is that Bush ordered his own staff to work directly with Ted Kennedy’s staff to craft the bill. Second is that more Democrats in the House voted for the bill than Republicans. It’s the sort of terrible bi-partisan legislation you get from a president who loses the popular vote.
          In the meantime, the only piece of legislation John Boehner has sponsored since he became Speaker is to bring back the D.C Opportunity Scholarship program, which gave poor minority kids the chance to attend the same schools that rich liberals send their kids to. You remember that program? The one that was popular with poor parents, and was achieving measurable results after only two years? The one that Democrats, who allegedly care about education and lifting up the poor, ended as a sop to the teacher unions? No policy views and tribalism indeed.

          I could say the same about the Iraq war, which a majority of the American people supported, including one Elvis Elvisberg. Why? Maybe because Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, gave categorical statements on the floor of the Senate about Saddam’s weapons and his willingness to use them. Of course, years later that same Jay Rockefeller would chair a commission investigating administration claims about pre-war intelligence, claiming that the Bush administration misled the American people. His report did not back up his assertions, but it gently airbrushed out the statements made by Democrats like Jay Rockefeller arguing that Saddam’s weapons posed an imminent threat. No policy views and tribalism indeed.

          And as I have pointed out repeatedly, Democrats were gung-ho about waterboarding when it was actually being used, before turning against the program years after it ended, and then lying about their enthusiastic support for it in the first place. No policy views and tribalism indeed.

          Raich vs. Gonzalez? I think Scalia got it wrong, and Thomas, who is considered the most originalist of the justices, got it right. There are important differences in the jurisprudence of the two, which would come as news to liberals who suggest that Thomas is just Scalia’s lackey. I think Scalia will unfortunately vote to uphold the individual mandate. If you actually understand the fault lines in judicial conservatism, then you wouldn’t need to make the tribalism argument. Read Eric Claeys essay in National Affairs about this if you really want to know more.

          The broader point is that Republicans have acted like a bunch of politicians for the last several years, acting on principle on the one had, while ditching principle and trying to re-elected on the other hand. Democrats have as well. That’s how politicians tend to behave. The only difference is that you seem to think only Republicans act like politicians, while Democrats are somehow different. It isn’t true, and the sooner you get rid of your self-serving delusions, the better off you’ll be.

    • TexasDog

      Elvis – an astute use of the word “tribe”. Your description has put a word to what we are seeing from the Tea party wing of the Republican party. My question is where did the rest of the Republicans go?

      • Elvis Elvisberg

        No one sits down and crunches the numbers, then comes to the view, “oh hey, marginal income tax rates like we had under Bush Sr. and Clinton, and health insurance policies like Heritage/RomneyCare, really are fascism! I should be a Republican!”

        It’s my view that most Americans don’t pay as much attention to politics as those of us in the group of blog-readers and -commenters. And I’ve read that the choices we make about “our” political party when we’re in our 20s tend to stick for life.

        The reasons to be a Republican today, given the party’s scorched-earth rhetoric and tactics and evident casting off of even any vague gestures toward any sort of policy agenda, are, in order of prevalence: inertia, resentment, and personal enrichment.

        • torourke

          The argument for keeping the Bush tax cuts was that failure to do so was evidence of fascism? That’s not the argument Obama made, when he signed a bill, passed by a Congress dominated by Democrats, that extended the Bush tax cuts. Do have any idea how pathetic your whining comes across on this issue? Here we have Obama, the first liberal president to win a majority the popular vote in decades, having specifically campaigned on letting the Bush tax cuts expire, with a super-majority in both houses of Congress, relenting on the issue and extending the tax rates. Why? Because as Obama said himself, you don’t raise taxes when the economy is still terrible. Moderate Democrats in places like Virginia were arguing the same thing. But if it helps you to console yourself that the only reason why the cuts were extended is because Faux Noise won the spin wars, then go right ahead. You’ll have a lot of company. Pathetic.

  • Carney

    This is well said. Frum omits the Bork nomination as a watershed moment in setting aside basic norms and embracing merciless win-at-any-cost warfare as the model. The aftermath has been a tit-for-tat escalation as each side nurses its grudges and justifies its own actions in light of them.

    • AllisonCay

      The Clarence Thomas hearings certainly did not do much to help the spirit of co-operation. People forget how utterly vicious towards this man was the Democratic opposition…one of whom was then Del. senator Joe Biden.

      But there is plenty to go around. In my time I have seen this country more or less united (the cold war), divided (vietnam) and then united again (Reagan years). Other than a few shocks to bring us together like 9/11, I have never seen the country so polarized to the point of paralysis as it is today. It is as if there are 100 people and if you show them the identical red card 50 of them will see it as yellow and the other blue and call the other group color blind and fools. This is no way to solve problems. But it does make for good press and good political theater. So sad that I had to watch this great country’s demise.

      • Oldskool

        Reagan did his share to divide the haves from the have-nots. He may have made his fans feel warm and fuzzy but at the same time he took a hatchet to social programs and let people die from AIDS because he thought they deserved it.

        • LauraNo

          And threw the mentally ill and unstable out on the streets to fend for themselves. Not exactly a uniting type of thing to do, unless you mean the uniting of the tribe against those awful others.

        • Steve D

          There were only so many people in the U.S. qualified to do AIDS research in 1980 and most of what needed to be done then was fundable (and funded) as general research on viruses. And 30 years later we can hold the line on AIDS but still not cure it. So the “Band Played On” meme is a conspiracy theory on a par with the moon landing hoax. Dumping a load of money on AIDS in 1980 would not have saved a single life.

          “And threw the mentally ill and unstable out on the streets to fend for themselves.” No, that was a joint conservative-liberal atrocity. Conservatives just wanted the money. Liberals viewed asylums as “warehouses” (they often were), wanted the mentally ill housed in the community (like that was going to happen) and wanted society to “confront” the problem of mental illness.

        • rockstar

          Oh thank God somebody said it.

      • Primrose

        Given that Justice Thomas was accused of abusing his power most egregiously, it was fair to question him severely about it before giving him a lifetime appointment to one of the most powerful offices in the land. The fact that he was an inferior candidate with little reason for his name to be put forward only increased that necessity. This man was neither a replacement for Justice Thurman or equal to one of the other recently appointed Justices, Mr. Scalia, or even the recently attempted nominee, Mr. Bork. And his complete silence during court and decisions, suggests that he was a poor choice.

      • Banty

        We were united in the Reagan years? *Maybe* Ford can take credit for making a difficult unifying decision (pardoning Nixon), and running a moderate administration. But Reagan earned the enmity of a wide swath of the country, starting with his destruction of the air controller’s union.

        I do agree that the polarization is as bad as in the 1960s. But let’s not be silly about postulating Golden Ages.

    • gocart mozart

      Bork was asked tough but factual questions about his legal opinions and publicly stated policy positions. Why is this considered beyond the pale?

  • StreetSign

    I commend David for raising the level of discourse. For example he is the only pundit I know who has resisted the typical media practice of calling the tea folks a “party” when they are in fact the most extreme Republicans. They are not sprung up willy nilly from the grass roots.

    I feel that a great deal of the lack of comity and bipartisanship has to do with religion, particularly the anti-abortion forces who have helped capture the right wing of the Republican party. Religious views are, imo, not only by definition non-negotiable but the messengers appear to be pre-selected for non-compromise. “Authoritarian” and “rigid” come to mind.

    The last Republican I voted for was Pete Wilson. When the Republicans stop trying to win elections by pandering to the persecution complexes of religious fundamentalists and exploiting such personal tragedies as the Terry Schiavo case, they might possibly get my vote again. No one loves everything the Democrats do. But with religious oppression looking me in the face in the form of tea bagism, I’m going to fight it with everything I have.

    Otherwise I’d be happy to debate all of this in the theoretical context of our system vs. the Brits.

    • Carney

      You want authoritarian and rigid?

      Try Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, suddenly imposing the Western world’s most zealously radical abortion regime on the nation, sweeping aside all existing law based on no previously dreamed-of understanding of the Constitution as actually written and amended, and regardless of what policies the people and their elected representatives chose or would choose to work out via sometimes painful compromises.

      As in other countries, and as was already happening in various US states, liberalizing opinion and social change here would likely have resulted in abortion being legalized legitimately, through the legislative process, albeit more slowly and with more common sense and decent limits than the abortion zealots and abortion industry preferred.

      Maybe if you took a few seconds to actually think about what it’s like for someone who does not share your opinion, you would realize that cheating to ram through the most extreme version of your preferred policy, with no hope of mitigating let alone reversing it through the democratic process, is guaranteed to embitter the other side.

      Typical that you’d do this, then blame those you’ve done it for being unhappy. And it takes chutzpah to get your most extreme wishes realized via undemocratic means and then accuse those on the OTHER side of being “rigid” and “authoritarian”.

      • Watusie

        There is nothing “radical” about the idea that you don’t belong in a conversation between a woman and her gynecologist.

        You are opposed to abortion, but you are fortunate, in that no one will ever force you to have one.

        Now, maybe you can take a few seconds to actually think about what it’s like for a woman who has been told she’s got an ectopic pregnancy that might kill her if she waits for nature to take its course.

        • Carney

          Predictably, you refused to listen or consider the point I made, which was NOT about actual argument over whether abortion should be legal and/or more strictly limited, but rather about which side in the debate is actually “rigid” and “authoritarian” in its actual methods and attitudes.

        • Watusie

          The side that wants to impose its theologically-based viewpoints on all the women in the United States is the one that is being “rigid” and “authoritarian” .

        • Demosthenes

          Carney +1

          Watusie, generally I find your posts worth reading, but Carney is right: at no point did he indicate that he thought there should be a blanket prohibition on abortion, in fact he said more or less the exact opposite of that.

          The point is that there is a difference between allowing abortions under any circumstances for any reason and allowing abortions under certain circumstances for good reasons. This is not about coming between a woman and her lady parts, it is about the dignity and the sanctity of life.

        • Watusie

          But that’s just it, Demosthenes – Roe v. Wade DOESN’T allow abortions under any circumstances for any reason. It was NOT the “world’s most zealously radical abortion regime”. And it certainly doesn’t not represent the grotesque imposition of authoritarianism that Carney pretends it does.

        • indy

          Taking your grievance to the highest court in the land and winning by a 7-2 majority makes you a ‘cheater’ and your methods ‘rigid’ and ‘authoritarian’?

        • Primrose

          But there is nothing rigid or authoritarian in saying the right to bodily integrity extends to women of reproductive age. There is nothing in the constitution which says that women of reproductive age have less rights than other people. Even before women considered to have many legal rights, their ability to reproduce did not change matters. And after, they were considered to have constitutionally protected rights, no exclusion clause was made for women of reproductive age. It did not impose ideas on people. Nor did it force any women to have an abortion. Hence, it was not a radical decision.

          Furthermore, you can not call a decision that says people have the right to decide what to do with their own bodies “authoritarian” because it denies states the right to tell those same people what to do over their body, despite their own preferences, best judgement.

        • torourke

          The side that rejects the facts of Embryology 101, employs an irrational spirituality in the form of a bizarre metaphysical dualism, rejects human equality, and does all of this under the guise of a constitutional ruling that most lefty legal scholars have thrown in the towel trying to defend on the merits is the one that is acting upon its deep authoritarian impulses. There is simply no conservative analogue to this.

          http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/01/letting-go-of-i-roe-i/3695/

        • Primrose

          Torouke, what?

          No religion I know of, let alone municipality, requires another human being to give up their right to bodily integrity to save or promote the life of a another. I do not even know of a religion or municipality that requires it’s citizens either to give blood or donate their organs when dead.

          Thus, requiring a person to donate the use of their entire body for nine months, take extensive medical risks doing so, incur legal obligations, all without compensation or even social approval, is not the common expected morality in relation to life.

        • torourke

          Primrose, are you really that ignorant? No religion or municipality has ever disapproved of abortion? You do realize that many religions do in fact condemn abortion, and that the procedure was illegal in the U.S. in every state until 1967, and that abortion was illegal going back to the common law, etc. Or maybe you don’t. Wow.

        • Primrose

          Way to miss the point Torouke. I meant other than abortion. That was my point.

        • torourke

          Primrose,

          This particular thread is about abortion, and as far as I can make out of your generally incoherent ramblings, you’re suggesting that no religion or municipality has ever commanded a woman to dispense with her “bodily integrity”, which is a nice little euphemism for abortion. I still can’t figure out how this was a response to my original post, but whatever. You’re still wrong, as I pointed out in my follow up. Now you’re claiming that you’re not talking about abortion, even though that’s what this thread is about. Fine, go troll somewhere else then.

        • Chris Balsz

          Carney mentioned Doe v. Bolton, which DOES mandate open-ended access to abortion.

          “Whether, in the words of the Georgia statute, “an abortion is necessary” is a professional judgment that the Georgia physician will be called upon to make routinely. We agree with the District Court, 319 F. Supp., at 1058, that the medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age – relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.”

        • Watusie

          Saying that a woman may obtain an abortion after viability if necessary to protect her health is NOT “open-ended access to abortion”. What part of “in the professional opinion of the doctor” are you struggling with?

        • Chris Balsz

          “There is nothing “radical” about the idea that you don’t belong in a conversation between a woman and her gynecologist.”

          There is if we read that literally; but really, you do support denying anybody the right to practice medicine without a license, you do support the power of the state to define “malpractice”; you want the public to support enforcement, and you further want us all to pay for health services. And in any other circumstances, that need to regulate and subsidize is taken as justifying a great deal of intrusion.

        • Watusie

          There is a world of difference between passing judgement on the competence and qualifications of doctors and intervening into the relationship between a competent doctor and a patient.

        • Primrose

          Once again, it is not authoritarian to permit self-determination.

          And on the point of health, I really have to ask you gentlemen, to understand that pregnancy may be common but it is not a health neutral condition. You get all hot and bothered about this health clause as if problems in pregnancy are some rara avis, so it must be a loophole. They are not. Pregnancy is not as deadly as it was in the past, but that doesn’t mean it is all nice and safe either. Having all your resources redirected to support another is not a good thing for the body. In any other situation we would call such a life a parasite. And sometimes terrible situations occur.

          I would also ask you gentlemen to stop speaking of women having late-term abortions as if they were thoughtless bimbos who just remembered they didn’t want a child. I do not know personally one woman who takes abortion lightly. ( I am sure they are out there, but the presence of Casey Anthony does not mean all mothers want to kill their children.) I have met plenty of men who take abortion lightly, but they are not the ones going through it.

          Few women who are put into the situation of late-term abortions did not want their child. It is a painful, horrifying situation. But women are not children and we know that sometimes life is like that. All the courts are saying by leaving it up to the women and her physician’s best judgement is that women are capable of making hard decisions, making moral decisions.

          I really don’t think that is such a radical idea. Do you?

        • Primrose

          I think it is a little sly to say you have not been discussing the actual issue, since there is no obvious proof it is authoritarian. Once again, it is not authoritarian to permit self-determination. It is not authoritarian to deny others the right to make decisions for you.

          You wanted to throw that issue up there. And since you did, I really have to ask you gentlemen, to understand that pregnancy may be common but it is not a health neutral condition. You get all hot and bothered about this health clause as if problems in pregnancy are some rara avis, so it must be a loophole. You seem utterly convinced that there could be no other reason. You are wrong.

          Pregnancy is not as deadly as it was in the past, but that doesn’t mean it is all nice and safe either. Having all your resources redirected to support another is not a good thing for the body. In any other situation we would call such a life a parasite. And so sometimes terrible situations occur.

          I would also ask you gentlemen to stop speaking of women having late-term abortions as if they were thoughtless bimbos who just remembered they didn’t want a child. Yes, I have met plenty of men who take abortion lightly, but they are not the ones going through it. I do not know personally one woman who takes abortion lightly. ( I am sure they are out there, but the presence of Casey Anthony does not mean even a significant minority of mothers want to kill their children.)

          Few women who are put into the situation of late-term abortions did not want their child. It is a painful, horrifying situation. But women are not children and we know that sometimes life is like that. All the courts are saying by leaving it up to the women and her physician’s best judgement is that women are capable of making hard decisions, making moral decisions.

          I really don’t think that is such a radical idea. Do you?

        • Banty

          “Now, maybe you can take a few seconds to actually think about what it’s like for a woman who has been told she’s got an ectopic pregnancy that might kill her if she waits for nature to take its course.”

          Strawman. I don’t know of any, even the most ardent anti-abortion people, who would not allow abortion in that situation.

        • gocart mozart

          Paging Dr Tiller to the white courtesy phone.

        • Primrose

          Well, while most permit it in the case of ectopic pregnancy, the Catholic church excommunicated a nun who permitted an abortion to save the life of a mother of four. They also excommunicated a Brazilian mother who procured her 9 year old daughter bearing twins conceived because her stepfather raped her as well.

          So you’d be wrong in the larger case of the life or health of the mother mattering.

      • Slide

        Watusie +1

      • SteveT

        Carney:

        There are plenty of places in the world where it’s easier to get an abortion than the USA, particularly if you count ALL of the USA.

  • bdtex

    Who broke it? Republicans

  • rubbernecker

    Except Reagan should have been impeached for Iran-Contra. After all, it was at least as much a violation of the oath of office as a presidential blowjob.

    • Carney

      Clinton probably should have been impeached solely on the basis of his tawdry, degrading, exploitative conduct which shamed the presidency and the nation. The President is not merely head of government, an administrator of whom mere competence is the most important if not sole requirement, but is also head of state, our ceremonial leader, the living symbol of our nation, our people, and our values, and thus someone we should be able to be proud of. George Washington’s immense credibility and integrity was his main qualification for the office, not his ability to keep GDP growth above a certain percentage.

      In any case, what Clinton WAS and unquestionably SHOULD have been impeached for was not a “mere bj” but deliberately and with careful forethought committing felony perjury to obstruct a federal civil rights investigation. The specific nature of his relationship with Lewinsky was directly relevant to establishing whether Clinton, as a workplace superior, had a pattern of giving career rewards to female subordinates who submitted to his advances, while retaliating against those who refused him. Paula Jones sued because her career stalled after turning him down while Gennifer Flowers, who did not, was given a sinecure. It was the LEFT that insisted that such a pattern violated a woman’s civil rights, and insisted that a boss be investigated to see if such a pattern existed. Clinton, a Yale Law grad, former constitutional law professor and state attorney general, and with the best possible legal advice, was well aware of the implications of what committing perjury in this case meant for the rule of law. Impeachment and conviction was the only appropriate response.

      • sweatyb

        OK. Reagan sold arms to Iran.

      • Slide

        oh Carney, stop being silly. The impeachment of Bill Clinton was a sad day in American politics. When you go on and on about how Clinton should have been impeached it just discredits you and shows you for the partisan that you are. High Crimes and Misdemeanors it was not, no matter how you want to wrap it up otherwise.

        • Banty

          Whether or not he should have been impeached is one thing, but it sure was dumb, dumb, dumb, and weakened his position and effectiveness.

      • SpartacusIsNotDead

        “George Washington’s immense credibility and integrity was his main qualification for the office . . . ”

        Cut the crap. The man was a slave owner and many, many people of his day viewed that as morally wrong, but it still didn’t stop him of exercising the brutal inhumanity that is required to hold another person as a slave.

      • Chris Balsz

        These people do not believe there is any law to curtail an elected Democrat in any way.

        • Watusie

          What a ludicrous statement. Mentioning only the most recent incident that comes to mind, did not Nancy Pelosi herself tell Anthony Weiner to resign? Now then, please give me the list of all of the Republican leaders who told John Ensign, Mark Sanford, David Vitter, etc. to step down.

        • Primrose

          What on earth can you mean? When was the last time Democrats tried to impeach a Republican president? Even Nixon was allowed to a dignified resignation. Reagan was not threatened with an impeachment over Iran-Contra. Despite anger at Mr. Bush’s stance on wiretapping and torture, and misrepresentations to Congress, Democrats did not impeach Mr. Bush.

          Democrats clearly believe that impeachment Is a serious issue that should not be applied simply because you don’t like the person in office.

          And very clearly, the founders did not intend such a clause to be used because some man had sex with a woman not his wife—or nearly all of them would have been impeached.

        • torourke

          Primrose,

          Clinton lied under oath, which is an impeachable offense. I have a feeling you know this.

        • Chris Balsz

          To answer both you and Watusie, I mean, whenever someone points out a law, ruling or amendment checks or condemns a Democrat, I hear Democrats argue
          a) the law doesn’t say that
          b) it does say that, but, when they wrote it they never saw our circumstances
          c) the authors did have a contrary intent, but America has changed and we must adapt
          d) Republicans already did it, so it’s no longer in force
          e) all of the above.

          The Clinton impeachment for perjury, FCC regulation of Net Neutrality without Congressional authorization, the individual mandate, the debt ceiling showdown, the War Powers Act, et cetera.

        • Primrose

          A case by case profile of the two counters an argument not re-interating your opinion.

          In what case have Democrats impeached a republican president in the same situation they refused to impeach a Democratic one?

          Since President Reagan’s alzheimer’s was not known, most Democrats believed that Reagan lied, under oath, to congress. (It is still possible he did, but given his diagnosis I will give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he really didn’t remember.) Democrats did not impeach him.

          Nor has any Republican President been impeached for invoking the war powers act, instead of waiting for Congress to go to war.

          So clearly Democrats are not making an exception for democrats, they don’t believe impeachment should be used for this purpose. . That is not bias, or playing favorites, that’s a philosophy.

    • Dragonfly

      Iran-Contra was a good thing – the Dems made it to be bad – it wasn’t.

      • icarusr

        1. Iran was involved in a war in which the United States was at best neutral or helping Iran’s enemy.
        2. Iran was implicated, at the time, in a series of terrorist activities around the world, including against Americans.
        3. Iran was and remains a sworn enemy of Israel.
        And Reagan authorized the selling of arms by Israel to Iran, to release hostages held by Iranian proxies in Lebanon. This is only five years after the US abjectly left Lebanon after its headquarters were bombed by the same proxies. So trading Israeli arms for Islamic-terrorist-held hostages with Israel’s main enemy in the region … and Dems made it look bad. Shame on the Dems.

        1. The law, duly passed by Congress, forbade the funding of a terrorist group in Central America.
        2. Operatives within the White House, reaching to the number two in national security, determined to violate the law.
        3. Operatives within the White House, having determined to violate the law in order to aid terrorists, entered into negotiations with a terrorist state holding Americans hostage.
        4. Operatives within the White House, determined to violate the law in order to aid terrorists, proceeded to launder money obtained as a result of illegal arms sale to a terrorist state.
        5. Said operatives, having been caught, shredded documents like so many felons. (See Conrad, Lord Black of Crossharbour, who merely *removed* but not shredded documents, and landed in federal prison.)
        6. The addled President of the United States appeared on TV to absolve himself of responsibility, thus demonstrating that a man purporting to lead the Free World had no control over his own office.
        7. The incoming President, having outright lied about his role in the affair on national TV, proceeded to pardon the principal criminals in the conspiracy.

        Aiding and abetting an enemy is treason. Terrible thing the Dems made it look bad. Shame on them.

  • TexasDog

    DF – “It will take more than a change in attitudes to address these concerns. It will take fundamental institutional reform.”

    Institutional reform sounds overwhelmingly impossible. Just how do we get this reform without going through some sort of major ugly upheaval? How about if the Senate just does away with the 60 vote requirement?

  • Dragonfly

    “The Democratic House leaderships could have refused to schedule votes on Reagan’s tax plans. Instead, they not only allowed the tax plan to proceed — but they allowed 48 of 243 Democrats to break ranks on the key procedural vote without negative consequences to their careers in the Democratic party.”

    I’m sure this didn’t come without concessions – Reagan had to give something up.

    • sweatyb

      your point is what, exactly? do you even understand why Frum included that anecdote in his piece? I don’t think you do.

      • Dragonfly

        When you assume you make an ass of yourself.

        I know that the point is about some breaking ranks in Boehner’s party, and I know why they do.

        Sometimes they know they have enough votes to get what they want, but they allow some to vote the other way to keep their constituents happy for re-election purposes.

        In the case of the Dems breaking rank and agreeing to raise taxes, it was probably weighed out the same way as to who will vote and who won’t giving enough votes to pass it, while allowing some members not to pee off their constituents – it’s politics – it’s how it works.

        That said, I went beyond that, and my point was that the Dems agreed to Reagan’s tax cuts for a reason – they got something in return for it. They would never agree to a tax cut otherwise, and certainly not if it was the idea of a Republican.

        • sweatyb

          Thank you for confirming that you didn’t understand the point that Frum was making.

          I still don’t understand why you would suggest that the Republicans in the House must demand some extra concessions to help out the thousands of Americans whose lives have been affected by natural disasters.

        • Dragonfly

          You have a lot to learn about politics before you accuse people of whatever it is you’re trying to accuse them of. Politics is all about making concessions. How much of the control you have dictates how much concession you need to make. Without concessions nothing would ever get done. This is the way our system of government works despite what you may think. We’re a Republic, not a dictatorship. It’s all ruled by the priorities of the majority.

          The GOP only has 1/3, while the DNC has 2/3 – the GOP has to make concessions if it wants anything. The wants may be many but the getting is limited, so they prioritize their wants and work to get whatever they can.

          The key at this point is for the GOP to keep the Dems from increasing spending and raising taxes. When we take the majorities in Jan. 2013 then we can add to our wants and needs list, and make them happen.

        • sweatyb

          Without concessions nothing would ever get done… The GOP only has 1/3, while the DNC has 2/3 – the GOP has to make concessions if it wants anything.

          Right, and here Frum is writing an article about the dysfunction of our current government precisely because one chamber, the Republican-controlled House, will not be satisfied by anything except complete capitulation of the other 2/3rds.

          The key at this point is for the GOP to keep the Dems from increasing spending and raising taxes.

          Where does allocating enough money for FEMA to provide emergency services to communities all across this country suffering from natural disasters fit in this equation? As a convenient bargaining chip to get cuts to Democratic priorities? Yeah, that’s not compromise.

          When we take the majorities in Jan. 2013 then we can add to our wants and needs list, and make them happen.

          Tax cuts for the rich and gutting social programs for the poor is the Republicans compromise position? That is too cute. I sure do hope that after the Republicans convince the electorate to vote them into the majority and the White House they’ll condescend to reveal all their brilliant ideas to us.

          Meanwhile, I guess we all just have to suffer through months and months of hostage-taking and temper tantrums.

        • Primrose

          Politics requires compromise not concessions, slight difference in terms, large difference in level of aggression. But our reps and senators are in office not to “do politics” but to govern. Politics, of course happens, but never at the expense of governing.

          Governing understands that some things must simply get done. These matters can not be thrown up for compromise—helping our fellow citizens in devastating emergencies is a biggie.

        • Banty

          “That said, I went beyond that, and my point was that the Dems agreed to Reagan’s tax cuts for a reason – they got something in return for it. They would never agree to a tax cut otherwise, and certainly not if it was the idea of a Republican.”

          So, you *speculate*, is that Dems must’ve been bought off somehow, for their lack of Machiavellian opposition tactics? Because … that fits your worldview better?

          You can’t say what it is, you have nothing to point to, but by you it just has to be the case it just HAS to.

  • observado

    How much of this spatial segregation of the electorate has been self-selected relocation and how much is a result of gerrymandering?

  • armstp

    That is what happens when the Republican Party is taken over by the Tea Party protest movement. Everything just becomes a protest by a minority. They are just there to gum-up the system. There is no desire to actually govern, just protest with their narrow views.

    • MSheridan

      There is absolutely nothing fresh about the Tea Partiers or the Tea Party brand of “conservatism”. To the extent that it’s an actual thing and not just rebranded Republicanism (and I trust we all remember how they insisted at the start that it wasn’t a partisan movement), it’s just warmed over Goldwater libertarianism married to Howard Jarvis anti-tax fervor, with a drizzle of Ayn Rand and a sprinkle of John Birch on top. It’s not a new recipe. We’ve had these people in California, Nevada, and Arizona for decades. And the utter refusal to even contemplate compromise is nothing new either. Remember this line?

      “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

      My home state California is known nationally as a blue state, but has many red counties as red as any in any other state, and our conservative politics have been Tea Party-esque since at least the late seventies passage of Prop. 13. Howard Jarvis succeeded with that where he had previously failed in his attempt to eliminate California’s state income tax. We’re used to this stuff and most of us don’t like it, as it has gummed up our political process to the point of breakdown. When pundits pontificated as to why California did not contribute to the red surge in the 2010 midterms, what they left unsaid (so far as I ever read) was that none of the Tea Party rhetoric was any different than what we’ve been living with at home for a long time.

  • Oldskool

    As with addictions, we have to hit bottom first. Then massive protests may help. This generation saw how it worked in the mideast. The older generation saw how it worked in the 1960′s.

    • Smargalicious

      Well, we’ve hit bottom with our debt, and the Dems don’t realize it.

      What the nation has to prepare for are the riots expected after the GOP erases and repeals the efforts of the last four years, and slashes spending.

      • sweatyb

        35% unemployment and 150 million uninsured while the rich enjoy the lowest tax rates in 100 years would probably lead to riots, yes.

  • Southern Populist

    Interesting analysis. I like the fact that the US is now operating under a de facto parliamentary system. It reduces peoples’ options to two stark choices and thus forces a choice between them. The ultimate net effect will be to force significant change in one direction or the other, or no change at all.

    - DSP

  • JimBob

    The Democraps broke the government. What they couldn’t get via elections they turned to the Judiciary. The simply awful treatment Robert Bork got on the Senate floor from the murdering drunk Ted Kennedy poisoned the atmosphere and it hasn’t recovered.

    Reagan got his tax cuts through Tip O’Neil’s House because southern Democrats voted for them. Now those Southern Dems are Republicans

  • Graychin

    Who broke the government?

    The hostage-takers. It pretty much started with Newt Gingrich’s snit against the Clintons, his elevation of the “politics of personal destruction” to a new level, and his shutdown of the government.

  • D Furlano

    Big business broke the government and the big banks broke the economy.

  • jakester

    Trouble is that the GOP, especially the Teabag right, its soul, are so morally perfected that they in all good conscience are unable to compromise with evil. That is what Rush told me so it has to be correct.

  • “How Did We Get Here?” He Asked Rhetorically | Poison Your Mind

    [...] Bartlett’s fellow GOP excommunicatee David Frum asks, “Who Broke the Government?”: Under the old rules, there were certain things that political parties did not do — even though [...]

  • abc123

    Our politicians are a reflection of the population. If this board is any indication of whose fault it is: It’s ours.

  • Chris Balsz

    “There is a world of difference between passing judgement on the competence and qualifications of doctors and intervening into the relationship between a competent doctor and a patient.”

    No. There isn’t. That’s why every state relied on that power to regulate competence and qualifications, to strip licenses from abortionists.

    “Saying that a woman may obtain an abortion after viability if necessary to protect her health is NOT “open-ended access to abortion”. What part of “in the professional opinion of the doctor” are you struggling with?”

    The part I quoted, where “health” is defined as including emotional or familial considerations separate of physical or psychological considerations. Because they are open-ended terms.

    • Watusie

      The idea that there can never be a medical necessity for an abortion is so offensive to the notion that women are equal citizens under the law that it fills me with disgust.

      • Chris Balsz

        “The idea that there can never be a medical necessity for an abortion is so offensive to the notion that women are equal citizens under the law that it fills me with disgust.”

        The idea that there is ALWAYS a medical basis for abortion should offend your reason.

        Even the Vatican recognizes a pregnant woman may get a medical emergency for which there is no chance of saving both mother and child, so, I don’t know who promotes that ‘disgusting’ absolute. That is very different from decreeing that subjective measures like “familial” considerations or “emotional” states amount to a health-related emergency.

        • sweatyb

          Oh my, the Vatican, well their track record on moral issues is certainly spotless!

          You may find it reprehensible, but we live in a country where your religious sensibilities do not get taken into consideration in terms of what the law says. And thank goodness for that.

        • Chris Balsz

          Actually in a free country, that’s up to the majority of the people.

        • Primrose

          So if a Jehovah’s witnesses convinced a majority of people to convert, should we bad blood transfusions?

        • Watusie

          “so, I don’t know who promotes that ‘disgusting’ absolute”

          Well for starters, you, a few minutes ago, lamenting the good old days when abortion was considered malpractice by definition.

        • Chris Balsz

          Nope. Are you through pretending that when a school nurse arranges for a teen to get a ride to an abortion clinic without her parents being informed, it’s because of some medical emergency?

        • Primrose

          That is a complete non-sequitor. The statue in question is about later abortions occurring because of health. A nurse sending helping a minor to an abortion clinic is about parental consent. But even here, the nurse will have done nothing wrong because it is the abortion provider who must get parental or court consent.

        • Primrose

          But if it will kill her and there is a chance the child will live, they will always choose to let the child live. That’s a fact. Also, as I mentioned earlier, let a 9 year old child give birth to her rapist’s twins. A 9 year old!

          So much for thinking women are equally valuable.

        • Primrose

          Nobody says there is always a medical reason for an abortion. Nobody.

        • Demosthenes

          It may not be the case that a medical justification for abortion is “always” put forward, but the point Chris is making (and I agree with him) is that de facto if not de jure — and in the wake of Roe v. Wade and other decisions, often de jure as well — “I want an abortion” is enough of a reason for an abortion to be performed, regardless of the circumstances. This is unequivocally true during the first two trimesters. Late-term abortions are a more tricky issue, for the reasons that others have mentioned, e.g. in many cases late-term abortions are precisely necessary for medical reasons.

          The bottom line, for me, is that if the pre-Roe standard was perhaps too tight, that the post-Roe standard is perhaps too loose. This is, incidentally, the point that I understood Carney to be making. I don’t think “I want an abortion” is enough of a reason to allow the procedure, even during the first trimester. It’s not the ectopic pregnancies that are the problem, it’s the “emotional health” and “familial distress” clauses. If you can’t support the baby, give it up for adoption. I think instead of extremely expensive fertility treatments, many of which necessitate the destruction of fertilized embryos, we should instead be encouraging adoption (and not coincidentally banning the practice of charging 20x more for white babies than for dark babies). But such a policy, of course, requires a social safety net, prenatal care, and in general a greater commitment to public health at all stages of life and development than the GOP currently seems willing to even consider allowing into law. After all, many of the women seeking abortions are from the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder, and don’t necessarily have anywhere to go.

        • Primrose

          First of all, Chris Balsz made the specific statement, “The idea that there is ALWAYS a medical basis for abortion should offend your reason.”

          Nobody says this. The medical clause pertains to abortions past a certain mid-line. So it has nothing to do with abortion because “I want it. ”

          Which is such a damn condescending statement. No women decides on abortion because she “wants” one. They have abortions because they have made a decision that going through with the pregnancy is either not in her interest or the potential child’s, usually both. She makes this decision because she has the right to determine to what uses her body is put. So, however regretted or not, all abortions in the first two trimesters in this case are justified.

          It is very nice that you think that adoption should be encouraged. As an adopted child, so do I, but as a women I think I have a bit more understanding of what was asked of my biological mother. It is not something that she should have to submit to without her consent.

          That people have extensive fertility treatments is irrelevant. It is not the duty of women with healthy and functioning reproductive systems to use them for the sake of other people unless they choose to.

          Nor is there a crisis of lack of children. 100,000 children are in the foster care system awaiting adoption. Our world population will all too soon get to 9 billion and we do not have the resources to care for them all, so there is no crisis there either.

          And lacking a national or global crisis, the right of bodily integrity stands.

          As for the idea that you can get an abortion too easily or for too spurious reason, that oft repeated statement is based on the idea that most women can not make good, hard or moral decisions. If you purport this concept, you do not trust women.

          And if you don’t trust women, I don’t trust you to make decisions for them.

  • more5600

    the comment I was replying to has been removed…

  • flangrod

    your commentary is spot-on, and thank you for it….and you are correct in concluding that only “fundamental institutional reform” will fix this mess….

    here is what i believe: the real problem is the tremendous cost required for a candidate to run a successful campaign at the federal level….it takes many millions…(obama has already stated he will spend $1 BILLION for the 2012 campaign)….needless to say, most individual candidates dont personally have the millions needed, so they must GET THE MONEY SOMEWHERE….and well, thats where things get toxic, right there….in order to raise those millions, the candidates MUST take donations IN EXCHANGE FOR UNWRITTEN PROMISES….and at that point, the ballgame is over for the american people…for the big $$$ donors however, the game is just beginning….big $$$ interests control the elected officials because they bought them, period….and those same officials also know that in a few years they will be asking those same donors for MORE $$$ for the next campaign! and that is the death-spiral that dc is in now….

    our “leaders” in dc are trapped in a revolving door of taking donations in exchange for promises until they simply dont have freedom of thought and action anymore, they are merely shills and stooges for their donors….they are pathetic really, and it shows…just look at them….what an embarrassment washington is….as an american, i am ashamed of what dc has become….

    how to fix this mess? simple. not easy. but simple. 3 steps :

    1) campaign finance reform – public finding ONLY
    2) term limits – no one get more than X years in dc (personally i say 6-8)
    3) strict limits on lobbyist access – lobbyists are nothing more than “bagmen” that shuttle
    money from the donors to the candidates…crooks in thousand dollar suits…

    and thats it my friend…with those 3 steps, our leaders will have the clean hands and conscience needed to actually lead FOR THE PEOPLE again….

    yours,
    flangrod

    • sweatyb

      1) the constitution wont allow it.
      2) casting out the good as well as the bad is a great way to sow chaos. As little respect as we give voters in this Forum, they’re at least better than random chance.
      3) the constitution wont allow it.

  • Rossg

    “Who broke the Government?”

    We the People! Too many of us just thought that a couple of tax rebates (announced with much fanfare by an advance letter!) were the greatest things since sliced bread.

  • Houndentenor

    If you are blaming the other side of the aisle for all the problems you are part of the problem. It’s time for people to do their jobs and stop blaming each other.

  • rockstar

    Taking the long historical view, the current crisis set in with the arrival onto the voting scene of a large and ever-growing segment of the US electorate which decided that it had the right, nay the obligation, to play Gandhi at every turn, on every issue, with every political, cultural and legal tool at hand.

    Carney writes:

    Maybe if you took a few seconds to actually think about what it’s like for someone who does not share your opinion, you would realize that cheating to ram through the most extreme version of your preferred policy, with no hope of mitigating let alone reversing it through the democratic process, is guaranteed to embitter the other side.

    Typical that you’d do this, then blame those you’ve done it for being unhappy. And it takes chutzpah to get your most extreme wishes realized via undemocratic means and then accuse those on the OTHER side of being “rigid” and “authoritarian”.

    These words are so true, and I’m not talking about the abortion debate. They also refer to the disgust which conservatives feel every time liberals cheat to accomplish a goal they can’t accomplish at the ballot box. Appointing progressive judicial activists because the electorate and their representatives can’t be counted upon to produce suitably enlighted policy IS cheating and erodes fundamental respect for the proper functioning of government. The liberals have decided that it’s better to pursue supposedly Gandhian ends with Ghandian means than to live with the imperfectability and limitations of a democratic system. News Flash: You are not Gandhi and your pet issue du jour is not a Gandhian struggle.

    • icarusr

      “to play Gandhi at every turn, on every issue, with every political, cultural and legal tool at hand.”

      I don’t even know what playing Gandhi means. Could you please elaborate?

      Isn’t the core of the problem that the “Me” Generation, the Baby Boomers, is not content with a loin-cloth and getting its salt from sea water?

    • indy

      They also refer to the disgust which conservatives feel every time liberals cheat to accomplish a goal they can’t accomplish at the ballot box

      Just so I can understand, do liberals cheat every time they accomplish a goal? Or just some of the time? How can I tell exactly when they are cheating? What is the cheat detection procedure? For example, do I need to study a lot in order to perform competent reviews of supreme court decisions or are we all born with the innate ability? Can I just assume when a decision is made that I don’t like it is the result of cheating, or do I have bring it up in front of some sort of conservative panel that certifies the cheating, or what?

      • gocart mozart

        They cheat by getting more votes or winning in court silly.

      • Chris Balsz

        Here’s a very basic rule of thumb: whenever the Court declares that an Amendment passed 150 years ago, guarantees something that was outlawed in every state since the Revolution…they’re making shit up.

        • indy

          So then you are of the opinion that a 7-2 decision by a 6 of 9 Republican nominated (if memory serves) supreme court is an example of a liberal cheat? Wow, they’re clever little bastards aren’t they?

        • Chris Balsz

          If the Court declares that Congress and the states voted in 1867 to guarantee something that all 50 states at some time or other since 1867 banned outright, including the present state being sued before the Supreme Court, then, yeah, it’s making shit up.

          How it ought to work instead, was demonstrated by the passage of the 26th Amendment.

        • torourke

          So if Republicans appointed the justices who issued the ruling, then it must follow that Republicans should respect the ruling, or something. That’s some brilliant reasoning there indy. And Medinnus, check out the 13th Amendment to the Constitution when you get a chance.

          Chris is spot on, and abortion advocates know it. Edward Lazarus, who clerked for Justice Blackmun, wrote in 2002 that Roe “borders on the indefensible” and that no one had been able to provide a convincing defense of Roe on the merits. But indy tells us that Blackmun was appointed by a Republican, so there.

        • Primrose

          Well, I would dispute that abortion has been illegal in every state since the revolution, but more importantly, since women have only recently been viewed as full adults with rights, laws that date back that far are inherently suspect.

        • Primrose

          Also the court can not declare laws unconstitutional out of hand. Some one must bring suit. Just because a right has been abridged for a long time doesn’t make it cease to be.

    • sweatyb

      Maybe if you took a few seconds to actually think about what it’s like for someone who does not share your opinion, you would realize that cheating to ram through the most extreme version of your preferred policy, with no hope of mitigating let alone reversing it through the democratic process, is guaranteed to embitter the other side.

      Ahhh, the lament of the poor rich white male. Nobody knows how bad he has it because everyone has it worse than him.

      • Chris Balsz

        The title of this thread indicates you guys don’t like the level of noncooperation you’re getting so far.

        Now, what if we got really upset, and chose sedition on the scale of illegal immigration?

        • Chris Balsz

          Sedition isn’t “treason”. Treason is defined in the Constitution very, very narrowly. As I see with illegal immigration, I really really doubt mass incarceration is an option you’d accept. And if the “reasonable” alternative is paying one-third of my lifetime income to support an amoral authoritarian state…

          “Chris Balsz – Defender of slavery. “If its good enough for the Founding Fathers, its good enough for us…” *chuckles*”

          It was fully constitutional until they amended the Constitution to ban it.

        • Primrose

          Once again, Mr. Balscz, it is not authoritarianism to deny others the right to tell you what to do.

      • Primrose

        I am amused that Carney makes this statement when this would be one of my points to him on this very subject.

      • torourke

        Too bad for you sweatyb that Benjamin Wittes, a respected legal scholar who favors abortion as a policy measure has made the very same point Carney and Chris made. Make sure you know what you’re talking about before engaging in the snark.

        http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/01/letting-go-of-i-roe-i/3695/

  • stikeman

    Excellent column Mr. Frum, but you go to great lengths to avoid big ole’ white elephant in the room- the Repulican party. All of the obstructionist tactics you’ve described are tactics adopted by the Republicans since President Obama was elected. Their frothing at the mouth base (i.e. the Tea Party) has an irrational hatred for Obama. The result is not even a left-right ideological battle but simply uniform, knee-jerk obstructionism and opposition to anything that the President proposes, even policies that Republicans would normally support. The problem- with great respect- is that people like you are enablers to their behaviour. Currently Republican politicians feel only one kind of pressure- the Tea Party kind. There is no counter-weight within the party. Until moderate, intellectual Republicans (yes I think Tea Partiers are stupid. Sue me.) like yourself stand up and say “Enough! This is not my party anymore and I’m leaving.” nothing will change. Until people like you are willing to exact the same kind of pressure on the party as the Tea Partiers the face of the party will drift evermore towards crazy. The Republican brand will increasingly be identified with the death-cheering, gay-soldier-booing knuckle draggers who attend the GOP debates.

    • balconesfault

      Exactly … the GOP is clearly in the position of rejecting proposals which were originally from the right side of the aisle.

      What’s horrific is that the benign interpretation of this behavior is that it’s simply rejecting things because they’re being proposed by Obama.

      The more sinister, and I fear more real, interpretation is that the GOP is currently rejecting many of Obama’s proposals simply because they think that they’d work …
      - that they’d help break the recession that is causing so much hardship to so many Americans
      - that they’d begin to help get people off the roles of unemployment and welfare and back to work, reducing the need for spending on social programs

      And what Republican leadership seems to fear more than the deficit, and more than the suffering of their constituents … is anything being perceived as a success for Obama.

      • elizajane

        Somebody, I think it was Steve Benen, recently wrote that the one thing more scarey than thinking that the Republicans are cynically opposing their own best policies just because Obama is promoting them, is thinking that the Republicans have come to actually believe that these good policies are bad. If it’s cynicism, then when they are in power, they’ll turn around and do the right things. If it’s self-delusion, they could truly wreck our economy.

  • valkayec

    Who broke government? Just to be snarky, try Atwater, his acolyte Rove, and Gingrich. When their tactics worked so well, Dems, as usual, adopted them. However, the GOP are past masters at skewing the game, from more than 30 years infrastructure building aimed at repeating the messages and goals first advocated by Atwater.

    • Oldskool

      I would say wealthy and cynical Republicans who intentionally con working class whites into voting against their own self-interest are the ones who broke it.

      • Steve D

        Obviously the way to fix it is to deprive working class whites of the vote. That way, those who know what their best interests really are can vote for them. We can send each white working class voter a card telling them who got to use their vote.

        But maybe the working class doesn’t perceive their best interests the same way you do. Or maybe even, people who sacrifice immediate interests for what they see as a greater good might actually deserve respect? Thomas Frank mentions that point in What’s the Matter With Kansas? then backs away as if he’d realized he’d just poked a snake with a stick.

        • Oldskool

          Seriously, if you haven’t noticed, there’s been an organized effort to excite working class whites with wedge or “values” issues since the 1970′s. A good example was the scam Ralph Reed pulled on the religious right involving an Indian casino. You can’t get much more cynical than that.

      • anniemargret

        I agree….halfway . But nobody should be able to con anybody if one is sufficiently aware of the issues and who says what and why.

        The problem is that more than half this country is into culture-baiting. There was always an element of fear and insecurity around, but the Republicans raised the stakes and brought that fear to its zenith in the past 10 years.

        When Obama got elected, all stops were pulled out. No punches were pulled. Palin swept up roaring, cheering crowds with her anti-Obama-as-a-non-American meme.

        And the party leaders smiled. They like getting the base riled up… now they’ve pandered to the worst elements in their party for so long, they are now the entire party!

        Who doesn’t think so? I cannot imagine being a halfway intelligent person who would swallow the bilge that is spewing forth from the GOP. I would resign in protest.

        Yet the party bosses and elites keep complaining about these elements (now, that is), but will still vote to keep them about, instead of rooting it out.

        So be it. America has been watching who and what the GOP has become, and it ain’t pretty. And they will pay for their sins in the polls and in November 2012.

    • Primrose

      I think you’ve found the culprit Valkayec, Atwater’s tactics beget Rove’s and anyone else.

  • Jimdandy

    It doesn’t matter who broke the government. What matters is what do we do now to fix it. For starters, I suggest two institutional changes: (1) Establish open primaries in every state , which would permit all registered voters to cast a ballot for congressional candidates with a general election runoff between the top two vote getters–regardless of party; and (2) a single six-year term for the president.

    • hlsmlane

      I like the first, but not the second. How about some real campaign finance reform?

      • sparse

        i think the reforms we need are in this order:
        a) open primaries
        b) depoliticized and reasoned methods for deciding what is a congressional district
        c) campaign finance reform

        i think if these are done, the single six-year presidential term will be obviated as things might be less partisan. no need to change a constitutional thing as a first step.

        • CautiousProgressive

          I believe the points you made are the most important issues in American politics right now. Their long-term importance over-sweeps every other issue.

          However, as they dis-favor currently established Congressmen, I have no idea how they might be passed.

  • stikeman

    Hmmm, the more I think about them the more I like your suggestions, especially the first one. Members of congress of each party can play to the entire electorate and not just the primary voters. The lunatic fringe of each party (although let’s be honest, there’s only one party with a bona fide lunatic fringe right now) would lose its disproportionately strong influence on the candidates and their representative. I like it. Now, how do we get something like this passed?

    • Jimdandy

      California recently passed an open primary law and we have a fledgling effort underway in Arizona (AZ Open Gevernment). Hope springs eternal!

  • TerryF98

    You can trace the problem to a certain Mr Lee Atwater. The father of lies. At his feet we can lay the accolade of destroyer of consensus.

    Long may he rot in hell.

    • valkayec

      In a February 1991 article for Life magazine, Atwater wrote:

      “My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The ’80s were about acquiring — acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn’t I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn’t I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.”

      See Atwater’s wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Atwater

  • RonJ2012

    Mr Frum, you’ve obviously a smart person. But you’re attacking symptoms instead of the problem. The problem isn’t Republicans or Democrats–and their perceived change in behavior. The problem is the process itself. We’re arguing over debt and how we got there. Perhaps we should look at the process of how we create budgets and revenue. We have no “budget”. We write checks at the beginning of the month and we HOPE we make enough money during the month before the checks clear. The delta is called debt. Until we fix the problem, we’ll continue to focus on personalities and you, the media, will continue to harp on the party you least favor.

    • Primrose

      If what you say is true, then raising taxes to pay for the budget will solve political dysfunction. Then why are the Republicans so against this simple measure?

  • ottovbvs

    “unemployment was at 4.6% under Bush and a Republican-controlled Congress, then the Dems took control of both houses of Congress – 11 months later recession.”

    This statement is of such surpassing inanity as to be indicative of severe agnotology syndrome.

  • Chris Balsz

    “Which is such a damn condescending statement. No women decides on abortion because she “wants” one. They have abortions because they have made a decision that going through with the pregnancy is either not in her interest or the potential child’s, usually both. She makes this decision because she has the right to determine to what uses her body is put. So, however regretted or not, all abortions in the first two trimesters in this case are justified. ”

    I see absolutely no difference between making a decision to pursue a specific outcome, and wanting that outcome.

    • Primrose

      Wanting an outcome is not the same as wanting the process. And as you well know, the use of the word want implies a positive desire to what is being wanted. And you, as an English speaker, know this well. It does not take a degree in linguistics to get this difference because we implement it every day.

      I don’t want war but it is the only way to defend our country.
      I don’t want to fire you , Garry but I’ve got to make tough decisions.
      You might want a job but (in most cases) you don’t want to clean the dirty bits in a chicken processing plant even though that is the job you are applying for.

      So to say women want an abortion means something quite different (which is why people say it). No women have no desire for an abortion. It is currently the only way to make oneself no longer pregnant before term. Should technology become available to easily, cheaply and safely harvest an embryo much later, around the time when women actually find out they are pregnant, then you can speak of women wanting an abortion.

      Sally would have gone to the embryo-transfer clinic but she wanted an abortion.

      But of course, you would not find very many women who made that choice, let alone other women to fight for their right to do so.

      • Chris Balsz

        “Should technology become available to easily, cheaply and safely harvest an embryo much later, around the time when women actually find out they are pregnant, then you can speak of women wanting an abortion.

        Sally would have gone to the embryo-transfer clinic but she wanted an abortion.”

        Why bother, for a “parasite”, a blob of protoplasm, a nonhuman with no rights to be considered?

        You seem to be evading what you recognize is true about pregnancy. It cannot both be “her choice” and somehow not her fault. Why do you feel any pressure to excuse the choice?

        “I don’t want war but it is the only way to defend our country.
        I don’t want to fire you , Garry but I’ve got to make tough decisions.
        You might want a job but (in most cases) you don’t want to clean the dirty bits in a chicken processing plant even though that is the job you are applying for.”

        Every one of those choices comes with responsibility for the process, the outcome. They are voluntary choices that could have been renounced, and there is total responsibility for carrying them out instead of renouncing them.

        • Primrose

          Why bother, for a “parasite”, a blob of protoplasm, a nonhuman with no rights to be considered?

          First of all I never made the argument that a fetus is a nonhuman with no rights to be considered, that is entirely a religious argument. I make the point that I can give you your belief the fetus is human and abortion still be allowed. Human beings do not have the right to use another human being to extend (or in this case create) their life, not without consent. This right of bodily integrity is so strong even the dead have it.

          Thus, the right a woman has not whether this fetus becomes a person but whether it uses her body to do it. Right now that means the fetus dies— so too all the people waiting for kidneys that the dead take with them to grave, out of sentiment. If a women has the ability deny the fetus the use of her body without killing it, that’s a better solution. At that point, and assuming there is full access to this option, then the state would have the right to bad elective abortion.

          As for responsibility, I do see it but I place it differently than you do. I believe a women as a responsibility for the any child she brings into the world. If she does not want it, then she should not bring it into the world. If she wishes to donate her body to its creation and let somebody else parent the child, all glory and honor to her. I applaud such women, but there is difference between honoring this kind of sacrifice and legally mandating it.

          And as an aside, we don’t honor women who give their children up for adoption. We treat them much as Vietnam vets are proverbially supposed to be treated, at best we ignore them at worst we scorned them.

          You want to encourage women to give unwanted children up instead of aborting the fetus? Fine. Put up billboards and ads in every city picturing women who have done so with halo’s around them. Use slogans like “the ultimate organ donation” or “Don’t be Ashamed, be Proud of yourself,” or for college crowds, show Hester Prynn with an A and a pregnant belly, the A is for Absolutely Fabulous for helping life, or “we thank you for your service.”

          But the moment we start talking about single, pregnant women as someone to be honored, most of the heads of the anti-abortion movement will explode. I regard, on a quite personal level, women who have given their children up for adoption as wonderful, special people who deserve all our best affection and praise.

          The world does not.

        • torourke

          “First of all I never made the argument that a fetus is a nonhuman with no rights to be considered, that is entirely a religious argument.”

          Wrong, this is a philosophical, specifically a metaphysical argument, but I can see why people on your side would rather not get into the weeds on this, because that would require doing some actual thinking. It’s much easier to say “Look, scary Christians over there!” and be done with it.

          “I make the point that I can give you your belief the fetus is human and abortion still be allowed. Human beings do not have the right to use another human being to extend (or in this case create) their life, not without consent. This right of bodily integrity is so strong even the dead have it.”

          Funny how this alleged right wasn’t “discovered” until 1973 in this country, and doesn’t exist in much of Europe. It must be because of all the Christianists roaming around over there. Your ignorance of the basic norms of Western Civilization would be irritating if it weren’t so amusing.