Democrat has finger on the wrong budget

Al Kamen
Columnist March 21, 2013

For a brief moment there during the House vote Thursday morning on the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, it seemed that the GOP plan — generally reviled by Democrats — had attracted a tiny bit of support from across the aisle.

Make that one lonely “yes” vote.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

On the budget that Democratic leaders have called a Medicare-slashing, Big Oil-subsidizing horror show? That was a surprise.

Alas, for Republicans who no doubt would have liked to call their plan “bipartisan,” the sole Dem vote disappeared from the “yes” column before the vote was gaveled to a close.

The final tally was 221 to 207 in favor, with zero Democrats voting for the proposal.

We assumed that a Democrat accidentally voted in favor, then realized his or her error and switched it. That’s not uncommon. With all the votes members have to keep straight, and clumsiness when using that vote-card machine (swipe of a card, then hit a red button for no, green for yes and yellow for present), mistakes can happen. Far less likely, we guessed, the “yes” voter had a very rapid change of heart.

A spokeswoman for the Democratic whip’s office confirmed that the momentary “yes” vote was a result of an error. But she didn’t identify which of the chamber’s Dems was the vote-flipper.

As it turns out, 10 Republicans voted against the bill — and we can only assume those votes weren’t mistakes — meaning there was bipartisan opposition. But the bipartisan support was merely fleeting.

The liberators reflect

The 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion reignited the bitter debate over the war. And once again it brought some great quotes from the war’s staunchest defenders.

But the quote of the week goes to Richard Perle, who was on the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board and was a vociferous backer of the war.

On Wednesday, Perle had the perfect answer to the inevitable question, posed by NPR’s Renee Montagne.

“When you think about this, was it worth it?” she asked.

“I’ve got to say,” Perle responded, “I think that is not a reasonable question. What we did at the time was done in the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation. You can’t a decade later go back and say, well, we shouldn’t have done that.”

So critics should start being reasonable.

Former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz was first runner-up, when he reflected on the war in a Fox News column.

The problem, it turns out, was really just a matter of strategy, Wolfowitz wrote. But it took four years to develop the right strategy, Wolfowitz said, noting “how different things might have been if the U.S. had been pursuing a counterinsurgency strategy from the outset.”

And it’s not that the problems weren’t evident almost immediately, judging from an article by our colleagues Glenn Kessler and Dana Priest only a month after the invasion.

The headline? “U.S. Planners Surprised by Strength of Iraqi Shiites.” The “burst of Shiite power,” the article noted, “has U.S. officials looking for allies in the struggle to fill the power vacuum left by the downfall of Saddam Hussein.”

Just a week into the war, the Army’s senior ground commander in Iraq was saying, “The enemy we’re fighting is different from the one we’d war-gamed against.”

We get around

In this age of sequester-induced austerity, many overseas trips for Congress and federal agencies are being grounded.

But it’s nice to know that we aren’t giving them up entirely and becoming a boring, stay-at-home government. For example, the Government Accountability Office is dispatching a team of auditors to Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia this month.

On the plus side, there will be balmy temperatures and spectacular views. The negatives: sounds like a pretty work-intensive trip, and then there’s the messy business of dealing with possible human rights violations.

The GAO officials will be checking to see whether embassies there are complying with rules banning assistance to foreign security units that the State Department thinks have committed gross human rights violations, the GAO says.

GAO spokesman Chuck Young noted that the agency has trimmed its travel budget by 40 percent since 2010. “But some investigations, such as this one, are prioritized for travel because fieldwork is essential,” he said.

Friends call him Sparky?

Our former colleague Bob Levey, who penned the Bob Levey’s Washington column, was an enthusiastic collector of PFLNs, or “perfect-fit last names,” which he described as “coincidental marriages of name and occupation that sound as if they were made in heaven.”

So with a hat tip to Levey — as well as our colleague Gene Weingarten, who also has a major thing for aptonyms — we present a name that recently came across our desk on a news release: a spokesman for the International Association of Fire Fighters named Tim Burn.

Asked about his oh-so-perfect surname, Burn deadpanned, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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