It’s unclear if any of this will come up in the debate set to start in a few hours, but remarks by three different politicians certainly highlight some interesting commonalities and differences between the right and left.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) made the following remarks:
“We saw within a few days that this President was going to be heavy-handed, he was going to implement his agenda and pay back his political allies, and it just went on from there to ObamaCare and then to Dodd-Frank. It has been the most anti-business and, I consider, anti-American administration in my lifetime. Things that are just so anathema to the principles of freedom, and everything he has come up with centralizes more power in Washington, creates more socialist-style, collectivist policies. This president is doing something that’s so far out of the realm of anything Republicans ever did wrong, it’s hard to even imagine.”
I contacted DeMint’s office to see if there was anything in that he wanted to retract or correct. There was no response. I might share his criticisms of the president’s economic policies, but for a U.S. senator to call the president “un-American” is shameful and unacceptable. President Obama’s policies can be wrong. His views may be highly partisan and, yes, he can be accused fairly of displaying populist animus toward Wall Street. He may be elevating politics (as in the Afghanistan troop withdrawal) above good policy. But un-American ? This the sort of vitriol that is inappropriate for a Tea Party organizer, let alone a senator. His colleagues should denounce it and call for an apology.
But before the left gets too worked up, let’s consider what the president did today. He too impugned the patriotism of his political opponents. Politico correctly headlined it, “Obama plays patriotism card.” He did it in a speech in Michigan:
“The only thing preventing these bills from being passed is the refusal of some folks in Congress to put country ahead of party,” Obama said. “There are some in Congress right now who would rather see their opponents lose than see America win. And that has to stop. It’s got to stop. We’re supposed to all be on the same team. Especially when we’re going through tough times.”
The only difference between DeMint and Obama is that DeMint specifically identified his target rather than smearing an entire party or political movement, and Obama refrained from the hot-button term “un-American.” This is not how the president of the United States — the “no red states, no blue states, just the United States” pol — is supposed to act. He too should retract, rephrase and show some acknowledgment that others love their country too — they just disagree with him.
With pols behaving so badly today, I have to hand it to one who actually said something accurate and thoughtful. (It’s hard to find such scraps on some days.) In Iowa, Mitt Romney responded to a heckler calling for tax hikes on corporations. Many on the left (with some notable exceptions) demonstrated their legal and economic illiteracy by mocking Romney’s statement that corporations are “people”.:
Q: In 2004, as governor of Massachusetts, you closed corporate tax loopholes on big banks to raise revenue and balance the state budget. If you were elected president, would you do the same thing and look at the revenue side of the equation to balance the federal budget?
ROMNEY: The question is, as governor of Massachusetts I closed loopholes on big banks that were abusing our tax system and would I do the same as president. Let me tell you, let’s describe what is a loophole and what’s raising taxes. In my opinion, a loophole is when someone takes advantage of a tax law in a way that wasn’t intended by the legislation. And we had in my state, for instance, we had a special provision for real estate enterprises that owned a lot of real estate. And it provided lower tax rates in certain circumstances, and some banks had figured out that by calling themselves real estate companies, they could get a special tax break. And we said, ‘No more of that, you’re not gonna game with the system.’ And so if there are taxpayers who find ways to distort the tax law and take advantage of what I’ll call loopholes in a way that are not intended by Congress or intended by the people, absolutely I’d close those loopholes. But there are a lot of people who use the loophole to say, ‘Let’s just raise taxes on people.’ And that I will not do. I will not raise taxes.
But despite the freak-out on the left, Romney is right about corporations in two senses. First, corporations are legally persons (to the dismay of the left, which would like to strip such legal entities of an array of rights). Second, the tax on corporations is widely regarded as a pass-through to shareholders, customers and employees. The larger point, as a Romney supporter e-mailed me today, has to do with the ongoing liberal antagonism toward job creators and investors: “They want to go on an anti-business rant in a down economy? Have at it.”
Maybe DeMint and Obama will apologize. Maybe the Twitter-happy left will apologize to Romney. But I doubt it. Unfortunately, the worst behavior of the day came from elected officials charged with fixing our fiscal mess. I give both DeMint and Obama a DDD rating.