Thursday, March 17, 2005

There He Goes Again!

There he goes again!

“Personal accounts do not permanently fix the solution.”

Those were the words of our feckless Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush at his press conference March 16. It sounded like a concession, but the Master of Malaprop proceeded to clarify his position.

According to the New York Times, “The president ignored a question about whether he would be willing to drop the private accounts from his plan in exchange for a negotiated deal with Democrats on benefits cuts and tax increases to assure the solvency of Social Security.”

Then he answered a question about when Congress should act on the issue by saying, “as quickly as possible, whatever that means.”

Whatever that means ...

The Prez reiterated his tiresome mantra of “I fully understand it's a difficult issue. Otherwise, it would have been solved a long time ago.”

Then he added this Lincolnesque declamation: “And I understand some members don't, you know, view this as a tough vote. In other words, you know, why did you bring it up?”

I don’t know, you know, why did you?

Despite raising the issue and flogging it ceaselessly across the country with his “sky is falling” alarums, the Commander-in-Chief said he would not propose a more detailed plan of his own because he knew Congress would reject it!

“I'm interested in coming up with a permanent solution. I'm not interested in playing political games.”

Well, that makes everything perfectly clear.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Undercover at the Conservative Conference

It was a busy weekend. Most notably, I spent all day Saturday at the first conference of the Wisconsin Conservative Leadership Coalition, a gathering of right-wing true believers held at the Pallas Restaurant on S. 108th Street in West Allis.

I'll post a detailed description of the panels and speakers soon. Among my first impressions are these:

1) Folks were friendly, welcoming and (happily) oblivious. This big old lesbian left-winger even got a cheery invitation to join the 4th District Republican Women's Club! "We're looking for women just like you," said a pleasant GOP matron at registration. I had to bite my tongue to suppress some great come-back lines, but she was really very nice and I didn't want to be rude!

2) The solution to all of our country's problems are a) tax cuts, b) limited government, and c) personal responsibility. Not terrible ideas on their own, but disturbing in the absence any discussion (or even recognition) of broader social currents and contexts and communal and corporate responsibility.

We liberals may be derided for our guilty consciences and seeking government solutions to socio-economic problems but at least we give a damn. I was struck by the "ME, ME, ME" tone of the conference. The constant chorus was "Cut my taxes, get government out of my life [except, of course, in the areas of women's reproductive freedom and same sex families, where government is being pushed to enact all sorts of restrictions] and, dammit, why don't other people just pick themselves up by their own bootstraps!"

The most extreme examplar of the "bootstrap" school was panelist Michele Litjens of Winnebago County who seemed to have a bee in her bonnet about obesity and mental illness. She kept shrieking about the need for more exercise. "I shouldn't have to pay higher rates for the insurance costs of obese people! I shouldn't have to pay for all the depression drugs on the market! If you're depressed, go out and take a walk! EXERCISE!" Let's hope this woman is never put in charge of mental health policy!

3) Several panelists were dynamite speakers despite my disagreeing with the content of their messages, namely State Rep. Scott Jensen and Sen. Glenn Grothman. Several prominent speakers were awful: US Rep. Tom Petri was a deadly bore (even the blogger for the new conservative paper Mendota Beacon agreed) and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is as defensive as ever and dumb as a post. My favorite Clarke-isms: LBJ and the Great Society programs created America's underclass (apparently poverty was non-existent before then), and "abortion on demand" became "rampant" in the 1960s. Uh, I don't think so, Sheriff. Stick to catching speeders.

Well, as you can imagine, it was exhausting. I'll post more later. Let me know what you think.