Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Response to "Escape From the Asylum" Jane Harman's Lament of the Demise of Moderation in Washington

Current Newsweek boardmember and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Jane Harman served as Congresswoman for the California's 36th Congressional District from 1992 to 2011, a stretch of territory from Venice to San Pedro, in Southern California. Her recent article "Escape From the Asylum" in Newsweek is filled with distortions on how American governance has panned out in recent years, including her erroneous miscasting of bipartisanship as the driving force for good governance, when in fact it is the collusion of politicians on both sides of the aisle which has crippled this nation into its current fiscal crisis.

Jane Harman

As one of her former constituents, I feel called, if not compelled, to challenge her rosy view of what politics used to be, and what she now describes as "dysfunction". For example, my umbrage with the Congresswoman culminated when she voted for the Patient Care and Affordability Act (Obamacare), a highly partisan and unconstitutional move which disdained the will of her constituents and violated her oath of office. I not only wanted her out of office, but every politician who supports aggrandizing the state at the expense of the individual, all in the name of "bipartisanship".

But before I denounce her unfounded praise of long-gone bipartisanship, one glaring issue must be settled. Earlier this year, Harman suddenly resigned from a position, which she was expected to complete, following her closest reelection yet, After twice staving off a challenge from the left because of her hawkish foreign policy, her lead over her Republican opponents had dwindled to 59% in a district with an 18-point Democratic advantage. She was slowly losing favor with her constituents, despite her claim that she "left earlier this year after a huge reelection victory."

Throughout the greater part of her article, Harman laments the decline of bipartisan cooperation which echoed the halls of Congress in days past. To begin with, she lauds the former moderate voices of both parties who went to great lengths securing passage of legislation and the Presidents who executed the final product.

Yet what did their bipartisanship actually accomplished in this country?

Harman mentions Mark Foley, the corrupt former Speaker of the House. He oversaw the scandals which ultimately swept away the Democratic hegemony of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. Harman ignores that the voters expelled the Democrats for their rampant one-party rule corruption that was bleeding this nation dry. Of course, there was also the strategic blunder of Mrs. Clinton spearheading a dead-on-arrival universal health care initiative through Congress, but more on that later.
And Ted Kennedy? That overbearing second-hand lion of the Senate muscled an outrageous education mandate through Congress, which the current President--the near equal in political temperament to Kennedy--has allowed the states to waive in exchange for enacting reforms which President Bush and Senator Kennedy should have enacted ten years ago.

And Harman's contribution to long-gone bipartisanship? Her 2007 lightbulb-efficiency law, another piece of nanny-state liberalism, was the real " colossal waste of talent". She and her colleagues should have been balancing budgets and cutting spending instead of leaving colossal deficits and national debt to her kids and future generations. Congressional members like Harman were micromanaging the daily lives of Americans instead of upholding the Constitution and managing the government they were elected to run.

In short, the bipartisanship which Jane Harman praises is the very dysfunction which has brought this nation to its knees with financial obligations beyond the capacities of this and future generations to discharge.

How naive can Harman be? She even decries that in Washington, "What’s in the country’s interest isn’t the first order of business. The first order of business is, how do I get reelected?" That has always been the order of business for every politician who enters Congress, including herself.

Here, she snidely derides what the Framers of the Constitution had foreseen and the frustrations which they had intended all along. James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution", argued for the Constitution as a suitable framework for stifling faction and protecting minority rights. Congressional legislation, like sausage-making, is an ugly practice fraught with stalling and infighting process for a reason: to prevent government haste and waste at the expense of individual and states' rights.

Following her empty attacks on the natural competition which the Framers designed to emerge in Congress, Harman makes the following suspect suggestions to change the rancorous tone in Washington:

1. She calls for "sustained presidential leadership", something which President Obama has failed to deliver, nor has the skills, experience, or temperament to foster. From his condescending tones with the opposition to his complete disregard for the American people in cramming stimulus dollars and unwanted medical mandates on the nation, Obama has exposed his true colors as a disgruntled elitist willing to push his own agenda at all costs, even to his own party.

She attacks Republicans for dedicating themselves to removing President Obama from power. Yet when the current Congress has time and attempted to negotiate with an executive who refuses to lead, listen, or budge, what other choice do legislators, or citizens in this country have? Obamacare, one of the most unpopular and unmanageable mandates foisted on the American people, cannot be repealed as long as its chief instigator remains in office.

2. Harman also demands more competitive Congressional districts. Actually, what we need are more vocal constituents, like the Tea Party which she maligns, like every other embittered moderate. No matter whom the voters send to Congress, whether the districts are safe, up for grabs, contiguous, or gerrymandered, Congressmen want to be reelected. If they don't heed their constituents, they pay their price at the polls. Just consider the 2010 Republican resurgence which took back the House of Representatives, a wave greater than the 1994 Republican Revolution with a larger delegation than ever before dedicated to fiscal restraint.

3. Lastly, Harman calls on moderates to be more "militant", i.e. partisan. Even a centrist stance is a position, one which cost a number of legislators in the last election, including Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter, who betrayed his own state and party just to get reelected. The result? A more Tea Party aligned Republican won his seat. "Politicians should pay a price for being shrilly partisan", Harman chides, yet only if the voters despise them for it.

Now, Americans across this country are shrilly demanding change, and not the kind that was voted into office in 2008. "The rewards have to go to the people who compromise and make good policy", Harman claims. True, but until now, bipartisanship has only created boondoggles like bridges to nowhere, pork barrel projects for non-existent Congressional districts, and useless extensions of the state like the Department of Homeland Security. These crass exploits are bankrupting our nation, the greatest threat to our nation.

Contrary to her contentions, the fractious nature of Washington politics has created the periods in this nation's history when the government did not overspend, overtax, and overextend its powers over the American People. It was the moderation of politicians like Jane Harman which has been falling out of step with the citizens of the United States, who are tired of the bipartisan business as usual which has saddled them and their children with unconscionable debts, unwinnable wars, and unaccountable politicians.

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