I wanted to like John McCain’s speech. I really did.
No matter what you think of John McCain’s political positions (I despise many of them), most decent Americans are pulling for him to beat cancer. It was inspiring to see him return to the Senate to cast a critical vote to allow debate on ObamaCare repeal.
And then he gave the speech.
It started out with some high-flown phrases about the importance of the Senate as a deliberative body. Sure, it all sounded a little self-important, but there were some good sentiments in there. The first time I heard the speech, I was impressed with the first few minutes.
Then it got to the part where we have to do the right thing and cooperate with Democrats who never cooperated with us.
To paraphrase McCain: to hell with that.
The text of the speech can be read in its entirety here. Here’s the part that really bugged me:
The [Obama] administration and congressional Democrats shouldn’t have forced through Congress without any opposition support a social and economic change as massive as Obamacare. And we shouldn’t do the same with ours.
Why don’t we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to act? If this process ends in failure, which seems likely, then let’s return to regular order.
Let the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee under Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray hold hearings, try to report a bill out of committee with contributions from both sides. [Applause] Something that my dear friends on the other side of the aisle didn’t didn’t allow to happen nine years ago. Let’s see if we can pass something that will be imperfect, full of compromises, and not very pleasing to implacable partisans on either side, but that might provide workable solutions to problems Americans are struggling with today.
I realize this brands me as one of the “bombastic loudmouths” whom McCain decried in his remarks . . . but what sanctimonious garbage.
McCain starts off this passage correctly: “The Obama administration and congressional Democrats shouldn’t have forced through Congress without any opposition support a social and economic change as massive as Obamacare.” Absolutely right. Well said, Senator.
So, as any idiot can see, the correct solution is to undo what the Democrats did. They never should have done it — but they did. So it must be undone.
Then, and only then, if you want to go through your “regular order” and your committees and all those procedures that you have fallen in love with over the last 30 years, go nuts.
But instead, McCain wants to have one set of rules for the left, and another for conservatives. He wants to let Democrats run roughshod over Republicans, and suffer nothing for it but a tsk-tsking — while Republicans, once in power, have to hold hands with the opposition and compromise, compromise, compromise.
There is nothing inherently immoral about passing legislation without votes from the opposition. You could say it shouldn’t happen that way. But it’s not immoral. So if the other side does that to you, and you can put things back to the status quo by doing the same thing back to them, you should do it.
Let’s take an analogy. Say Mitch and Nancy move into a furnished apartment where the couch is in the center of the room. Mitch wants the couch on the right side of the room. Nancy wants it on the left side. If Nancy simply moves the couch to the left without consulting Mitch, then as soon as Mitch is able, Mitch should move the couch back to at least the center of the room.
There’s nothing wrong with saying: look. I am moving everything back the way it was. Then, if you want to talk to me about it, we can talk.
If instead, Mitch praises the virtues of compromise and incrementalism, and talks about leaving the couch on the left side of the room but perhaps changing its position a little bit, then Mitch is a giant loser. Mitch, not to put too fine a point on it, is a word that rhymes with his name.
The analogy breaks down in a couple of places, of course. If the couch really does belong on the right side of the room, Mitch should simply move it there. To hell with compromise. Arranging furniture is a matter of taste, while using central planning to arrange huge swaths of the economy is known to be insane and disastrous.
The analogy also breaks down because in real life, Mitch isn’t the one to suffer. The people are. In my example, Mitch will get run over by Nancy his whole life — and if he allows it to happen, he deserves it. But the people of the United States don’t deserve to be stuck with socialized, government-controlled medicine, just because Republicans are a pack of lying hypocrites.
So, as much as I wanted to like McCain’s speech, I loathed it. I absolutely despised it. It is symptomatic of everything that is wrong with Washington.
I want both McCain’s brain tumor and his weak incrementalism to disappear, far, far away.
Senator McCain, please beat brain cancer. But as long as you’re serving in the Senate, you need to understand that compromise and collaboration, if not met halfway, are just surrender. Nothing more.