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Leading by Example?

February 26, 2010
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Call me flabbergasted by the idea that the Republicans won (!) the health-care summit.  I’ll have something on that later, but for now I’d prefer to discuss my favorite story of the year and maybe even the past ten years:

Senate Democrats spent Thursday night hammering away at Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) for single-handedly holding up action in the upper chamber – but he blurted out a message to one of them on the Senate floor: “Tough s—t.”

In an unusual display in the normally sleepy chamber, Bunning – without the support of GOP leadership – has blocked efforts to quickly approve a series of extensions to measures that would otherwise expire Sunday, including unemployment insurance and the Cobra program that allows people who lose their health benefits to continue getting coverage.

That guy is a real bro.  Not because he doesn’t want people to receive their unemployment or Cobra benefits—I seriously doubt that he wants that, he’s just trying to prove a point—but because he said what I think politicians should be saying a lot more often these days: “I don’t care about your feelings.”  If that makes me sound like a jerk (it certainly makes Bunning look like one), then I’m sorry.  It’s not about your or anybody else’s feelings.  People need to learn to deal with things rather than attempt to “fix” them.

Now, it’s certainly desirable for the Feds to act in such a manner that provides the best opportunity for the citizenry to pursue its own happiness.  If that means doing something like trying to achieve universal health insurance, then that’s fine if those measures would not have an adverse effect on the country in a profound way.  But the prevailing sentiment that government should be finding solutions to people’s problems is a surefire way to get politicians running around spending money with total disregard for unintended consequences at the behest of the people who just can’t do enough to help themselves (hence all the stories at the health-care summit today about people who had been screwed by the insurance industry).  We can lament these tragedies all we want to, but that’s not a good reason to do this.  It’d be nice to hear a politician tell a labor union or an advocacy group that he didn’t care about what they wanted politically for once.  Liberals wouldn’t want somebody to say that to the NRA?  Conservatives wouldn’t want somebody to say that to the UAW?  Maybe one of the reasons there is so much money in political lobbying is because we insist that our politicians care about their constituency’s feelings so much.  Bunning did have a good reason to be angry, though:

In one of the finest “let them eat cake” moments in recent political history, Bunning whined that his obstructionism meant he had “missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9, and it was the only redeeming chance we had to beat South Carolina this year.”

Oh, poor muffin.

I feel sorrier for him because he missed the game than I do for the rest of the Senate for having to stay the whole weekend to get a bill passed:

At the same time, I don’t envy Bunning: standing between a senator and the airport at the end of the legislative week is a dangerous place to be. If Bunning can’t be convinced to drop his objection, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will have to file for cloture to proceed, which means 30 hours of debate which pretty much ensures the entire Senate will be here through much of the weekend.

In Bunning’s words, “tough s—t”, fellas.

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