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Tilting at Windmills

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August 28, 2009

ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING.... You probably think I'm going out of my way to pick on Chuck Grassley. I'm not, but let's face it -- he deserves the criticism.

Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa indicated Thursday he was no longer sure whether negotiators can reach a bipartisan deal in September, citing mounting public concern about excessive government spending and soaring federal deficits.

Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee which is attempting to draft a bipartisan health care measure, said in a telephone interview from Iowa with Kaiser Health News, that he was struck by the intensity of Iowans' criticism of the health care proposals and "fear" of excessive federal spending during several weeks of town hall meetings throughout his state.

Asked whether he thought the six Democratic and Republican negotiators on the committee would be able to cut a deal when Congress returns from its summer recess next month, Grassley replied: "If you asked me that on Aug. 6, I would have said yes, I think so, September. But you're asking me on Aug. 27 and you've got the impact of democracy in America. Everybody's showing up at town meetings.... If town meetings are going to mean anything, if democracy is going to mean anything, then you listen to your people and you act accordingly."

A few things. First, the folks who are "showing up at town meetings," ranting and raving about reform, are angry because they don't know what they're talking about. They've been filled with rage, lies, and paranoia. Killing a necessary reform bill to placate ridiculous cries from gullible people is politics at its most inane. Responsible lawmakers do the right thing, even when misguided mobs whine about it. Letting temper tantrums, motivated by stupidity, dictate public policy only encourages more stupid temper tantrums.

Second, Grassley has a confused sense of who "everybody" is. Grassley has 3 million constituents. Let's say, hypothetically, Grassley has heard angry right-wing screams from, say, 3,000 Iowans at town-hall events. That would mean the senator had heard strenuous opposition to reform from exactly 0.1% of his constituents. If he's heard far-right town-hall enmity from 30,000 Iowans -- a farfetched claim, to be sure -- that would still only be 1% of the people Grassley represents.

He's concerned about "democracy meaning something"? A clear majority of Americans -- and a clear majority of Iowans -- elected Barack Obama as president. His signature domestic issue was health care reform. "You listen to your people and you act accordingly."

Grassley doesn't give a damn about the deficit or screaming Teabaggers or government spending. He wants to kill health care reform. The only question now is whether congressional Democrats are prepared to help him with this goal.

Steve Benen 10:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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He wants to kill health care reform. The only question now is whether congressional Democrats are prepared to help him with this goal.

They appear to be quite accomodating to the wishes of the minority.

Posted by: qwerty on August 28, 2009 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Okay, so where is the March for Health Care? Why aren't there rallies of tens of thousands of people in major cities all across the country? Why isn't the Mall in Washington packed from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial?

Because Obama doesn't seem to think in those terms. He seems to think that calm reason is what he needs, when he really needs passion and engagement.

Posted by: Bloix on August 28, 2009 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

The people showing up at town hall meetings may well be taking out their frustration over the sick economy on the idea of health care reform.

There are no banksters soliciting their opinions at town hall meetings and getting out in the streets with pitchforks is not easy.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on August 28, 2009 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Single payer, no-bull$hit major health care reform is one of the two major policy reasons I voted for Obama (the other being get out of foreign wars of adventure). I am being progressively ground down into disappointment at his performance. Democrats have the Congress, we have the presidency, we have the most weak, fractured, disjointed GOP we're going to have for a long time to come -- and he's not getting it done. I voted Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, Clinton, Gore, Kerry, Obama ... and I may stop voting. You pay for universal health care by deeply cutting the defense budget. Compare our annual military spending to the COMBINED military spending of the rest of the world -- you'll see where the money for health care is.

Posted by: Rob on August 28, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Am I the only one picking up a decidedly more aggressive tone to today's postings? Give 'em hell, Steve!

Posted by: doubtful on August 28, 2009 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

'preciate the documentin' of grassley's insane, traitorous, forked-tongue rantings.

what a failed statesman. what a vile boil on the ass of a declining nation.

look up the "decline and fall of western civilization" in the dictionary and you got a picture of the ass of the christian god with chuck grassley's face tattooed on it.

Posted by: neill on August 28, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Go ahead & pick on Grassley - he richly deserves it. I don't know why this is, but almost everybody is acting surprised that Chuck Grassley seems like such a stupid toad. He's ALWAYS been an inarticulate, right wing fanatic whose word is worthless. Worthless! I knew him personally. He's a moron. Always was, always will be.

Posted by: John B. on August 28, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

"ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING.... You probably think I'm going out of my way to pick on Chuck Grassley. I'm not, but let's face it -- he deserves the criticism." - Mr. Benen

You could start www.whychuckgrassleyisabozo.com and it wouldn't be enough. You aren't picking on Chuck Grassley. He's worthy of all your efforts to highlight his underhanded and destructive games.

Posted by: burro on August 28, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

""A few things. First, the folks who are "showing up at town meetings," ranting and raving about reform, are angry because they don't know what they're talking about. ""

That's right. I watch the tv news every day and I don't know exactly how this health care thing is gonna work. sooo just to be on the safe side I'm against it untill shown why I should be for it. Obama has done a terrible job of promoting it. And of course the news media are worthless.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on August 28, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Reality: most Americans, 80 percent according to the latest polls, WANT A PUBLIC OPTION ........... that would appear to be a majority, eh ?

Posted by: stormskies on August 28, 2009 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Put this together with Paul Krugman's column in the Times this morning. Krugman, Nobel Prize on the bookcase behind him, argues that the greatest danger from the deficit is political, i.e. manipulators like Grassley, not economic, and that the U.S. should increase spending to deal with unemployment and can do so without endangering the economy. Since many if not most of the Town Hall shouters are also struggling to find and maintain good jobs, this should be good news to them. Grassley telling them the opposite betrays their interest, but if you know his record that's hardly news.

Posted by: ericfree on August 28, 2009 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

no-bull$hit major health care reform is one of the two major policy reasons I voted for Obama (the other being get out of foreign wars of adventure). I am being progressively ground down into disappointment at his performance.-Rob

No wonder you must be disappointed. Obama never campaigned on single payer "no-bullshit" health care reform. His approach back then was similar to the one the House is proposing today. Or were you not paying attention? If i didn't know better, I'd think you were concern troll.

Posted by: tempered optimism on August 28, 2009 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

It may only be 0.1% who are acting out, but thanks to the news media they have a much bigger impact than their numbers otherwise merit. That's the reality politicians are dealing with right now.

Posted by: David W. on August 28, 2009 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

In a related development, Senator Grassley announced that he will introduce a constitutional amendment which will convert the US into a swiss-style, direct democracy. The right to vote will, however, be restricted to US citizens able to demonstrate that they are descendants of persons having arrived in America on the Mayflower.

Posted by: SRW1 on August 28, 2009 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

It bears repeating, but vanishingly few Americans base their financial decisions on the status of the national debt. Increasingly more Americans are basing their financial decisions on the status of their health care.

Can the proper mix of higher taxes and lower health care costs lead to more money in the consumer's pocket? To quote a famous American half term politcian, you betcha.

Posted by: Mudge on August 28, 2009 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

another vote for continued criticism of C.G. He doesn't say it, but I'm sure that I'm not the only one of his (unwilling!) constituents who has contacted him (I wrote an actual letter! I wanted a really permanent record) asking not for anything outside of his capablilities, just that he do what he said he would -- actually work with Democrats on health care, not be an obstructionist. It is so frustrating that he continues to be reelected over and over again, even as the state really had changed -- it's not the rural backwater it must have been when he was first elected.

Posted by: elisabeth on August 28, 2009 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Mudge brings up an important point. How many wingers circa 2007 were fomenting at the mouth about the national debt hitting $9 trillion and projected to hit $10 trillion by the time Bush left office? Now all of a sudden this rather obscure sense of financial weight on their children's pocket book is their top priority? Please. Gullible people stirred to frenzy by a propaganda "news" network indeed.

Posted by: about time on August 28, 2009 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Chuck Grassley is senator from Iowa, not senator from the United States. You can say that he should be doing what is best for the country, but all his incentives motivate toward doing what is best for getting Chuck Grassley 50%+1 of the vote next time he runs. To get those votes he needs to please the people that he thinks will vote for him, and the people who he thinks will give him money with which to campaign for those votes. I'd like Chuck Grassley to not be an amoral, self-interested prick, but he is rewarded for being an amoral, self-interested prick so nobody should be surprised.

It's natural to be angry at a guy like Grassley, but he is the inevitable result of a political system that allows private money into campaigns, and that has allowed a grossly undemocratic body like the senate to lay weeping and stinking in the middle of our federal government for more than 200 years.

We will have this sort of problem until we require campaigns to be 100% publicly funded and eliminate the senate entirely.

Posted by: Mark on August 28, 2009 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

That's the reality politicians are dealing with right now. -David W.

That's the reality politicians are counting on right now.

Posted by: doubtful on August 28, 2009 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

"We've told a lot of lies about this administration's health care proposals and scared people about deficit spending. Now my constituents show up at town hall meetings, and they're critical of the health care proposals and afraid of excessive federal spending. Well, by golly, I've got to listen to my people and act accordingly."

"But Senator, they're only critical and fearful because of your lies and fear mongering."

"Say what?"

Posted by: josef on August 28, 2009 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

It's a self perpetuating closed loop system:

Republicans don't want health care reform. The reasons being too numerous to go into here. $$$

Republicans (and their supporters in the media) set about scaring the bejesus out of their constituents, particularly older folks.

Frightened constituents come out of the woodwork at town hall meetings to scream about how scared they are.

Republicans are concerned about frightened constituents who don't support health care reform.

Therefore Republicans don't want health care reform.

Posted by: Lianne16 on August 28, 2009 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

@josef, guess we were thinking the same thing at the same time. ;-)

Posted by: Lianne16 on August 28, 2009 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

I for one don't know anyone who has actually gone to any of these town meetings

Posted by: Jamie on August 28, 2009 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Must read column about how United"Health" killed a subscriber:

There are death panels: The insurance industry runs them
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2009685301_harrop19.html

Feel free to pass along. I sent a copy to Grassley.

Posted by: Hannah on August 28, 2009 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

I attended a "Honk and Wave" for the Public Option the other day in NW Arkansas. There were about as many of them (anti HCR, across the street) as there were of us. They were all over the map, politically. Some opposed all Government programs, including SS, Medicare, etc. Some opposed all forms of taxation.

The motorists were about evenly split also. I would say 40 to 50% seemed to have no idea what the "dabate" was even about. They just looked confused and a little frightened.

Our side got two "F**k you's" and a couple of "Obama sucks" from red faced motorists. I don't think the other side got any.

Posted by: sceptic on August 28, 2009 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Grassley telling them the opposite betrays their interest, but if you know his record that's hardly news.

Politicians like Grassley have a long history of scaring people enough to reliably vote against their best interests. Until we improve the quality of the typical voter, we'll continue our slide into the abyss.

Posted by: qwerty on August 28, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Grassley set out to find anti reform constituents to justify his opposition and stayed well away from areas that reformers were sure to be. Not only that but he refused to clarify with facts the nonsense anti reformers were spewing even to the point of encouraging and promoting this misinformation campaign nnor has he made any serious attempt to find out what the majority of his constituents want. All he wanted was juice to oppose which was his intention all along.

Grassly has no business being in office and certainly no business being involved in HC reform issues as he has proven himself to be a bought and paid for pet senator on a leash of private ins. companies, to the tune of a couple of Million dollars. Plus, "that's not what your wife said" Grassley is a pretty petty manipulator without integrity or class. Iowans should be embarrassed by such a hypocritical liar.

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