“You can’t blame the wreck on the train”

I only wish I had more time during the day to ponder all the developments in the “negotiation” in Washington, D.C. over raising the national debt ceiling, an issue that’s become wedded to an effort to cut government spending.  And that’s a fine issue…if only more Congresses had spent more time thinking about cutting, or at least holding the line.  Loren Steffy, one of the few bright spots at Houston’s Leading Information Source, observes that these are really two different issues and he makes a frightening case for the consequences we might all suffer if today’s Congress doesn’t pay the bills rung up in the past.

Since we last spoke on this matter, the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate has finally had something to say.  After letting the speaker of the House and the House majority leader carry the fight against President Obama, Sen. Mitch McConnell offered a surprise solution to the impasse: give all the responsibility for raising the debt ceiling to the president, so the country won’t face an actual default but Republicans won’t have to take a record vote for higher taxes or a higher debt ceiling.  Maybe he thinks he’s being clever, but he’s getting killed by “conservatives” who think he’s given up the sacred fight.

See, it’s really hard to trust labels.  The Tea Party people, at least those who really drank the kool-aid, they say they’re conservative.  But there are plenty of people who’ve been known as strong conservatives for quite a while (in just the past week I’ve cited David Brooks, Kathleen Parker and David Gergen, for example) who think the GOP in Congress may be going too far this time.  Today I’ll add Steve Bell, who believes there will be a deal and no default, but that Republicans are spending so much energy protecting tax cuts for the richest Americans that the voters are going to smack ’em up-side their heads in November 2012 (I paraphrase).  Gallup’s latest poll finds, not surprisingly, that Americans would prefer to fix the problem with only cuts in spending, although they weren’t asked to identify which cuts they supported, but most of the country favors a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes.  Perhaps because they’re smart enough to realize that the problem is too big to fix with just one or the other.

Now Moody’s is putting American government bonds on review for a possible downgrade, and even the Chinese—the Communist Chinese!—are urging the U.S. government to be responsible and think about protecting investors all over the world.

So I was thinking about all of that, and I remembered the words to a Terri Sharp song I heard performed by Don McLean:

When the gates are all down and the signals are flashing,

The whistle is screaming in vain,

And you stay on the tracks, ignoring the facts,

Well you can’t blame the wreck on the train

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Tear down this wall

This was supposed to be the last obstacle, right?  This report was to be the last gasp for members of Congress who imagine themselves, in Buckley’s phrase, standing athwart history yelling Stop, at the unstoppable sunrise of civil liberties for homosexuals in America.  Well, now it’s here; let’s see what they do.

Today the Department of Defense released its own report on the anticipated impact to military readiness if Congress were to repeal the hideously-christened “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, which prohibits homosexual Americans from being honest about their sexuality if they want to serve their country in the armed forces.  DOD found that, by and large, there’s no problem—you can read the reports from the major outlets:  New York Times, Associated Press, Fox News.

The House of Representatives already voted to repeal the law; some in the Senate resisted, wanting to give the Pentagon a chance to determine if changing the law would weaken our national defense.  To those senators who were betting that, surely, the men and women in uniform would object vehemently to gay men and women serving openly, and thereby provide needed political cover to affirm the ban—shame on you for thinking so little of American soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen.

The former maverick John McCain was perhaps most prominent about yielding to the military leadership on this question; a couple of weeks ago Jon Stewart bothered to remember what McCain had promised. (click the pic)

imageThe Pentagon report concedes that a world without DADT might experience growing pains, but it assures Congress that some brief discomfort is no reason to wait.  Logically, then, there’s no valid reason not to repeal the law, and any objection that the change should be delayed until it’s not so hard to implement should be answered with a reminder that the same argument was floated when President Truman ordered desegregation of the military.

Yes, this is a civil rights issue; I’ve made my case here before.  There’s no stopping it—the change is coming—and if some lame duck members of Congress who aren’t worried about re-election any more make the difference in changing this law, so be it.