and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
September #1

GOP could take fiddling lessons from Democrats
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, September 4, 2008

So there I was on Labor Day, in my hammock, reading a Harry Bosch detective novel and listening to a countdown of the summer hits of the '50s, '60s and '70s on WROR-FM.

I looked up now and then to watch the cat stalking the groundhog who was eating the clover that has replaced our lawn, as well as the birds at the feeders and birdbath. None of the stalkees seemed especially worried.

I was looking forward to a cookout when Chip got back from sailing. It was a perfect day.

But wait! Why is Chip home so early? He jumped from the car, yelling at me to get out of the hammock.

Didn't I know there was a hurricane about to hit Louisiana again? How could he enjoy his boat, how could I enjoy my book, when disaster might strike some fellow Americans at any moment? We needed to suspend enjoyment and ... do what? Drive to New Orleans and stack sandbags?

No, actually, Chip was home early because the wind outside Salem Harbor was gusting too much for his little sailboat. So he came home to fire up the grill for salmon cakes from Rowand's, and was calling to me to make the salad.

Life and the holiday went on, here and over most of the United States, except, of course, at the Republican National Convention, which was suspended so delegates ... could drive to New Orleans and stack sandbags? No, actually, they just put off the process of choosing the Leader of the Free World and did some fundraising for the Red Cross, which was nice.

But the important thing, apparently, was not to appear to be having a good time while disaster struck their fellow Americans.

I'm not sure why this strikes me as either annoying or amusing. Certainly President Bush, VP Cheney, the governors and congressmen from the potentially affected Gulf states had to be working on hurricane response instead of being in the Twin Cities. Delegates from those states did well to stay home if they could assist evacuees.

But why couldn't politicians and delegates from, say, Maine to Washington state, continue with the business of the convention just as the rest of us continued with our cookouts?

Of course if things went terribly wrong again in New Orleans, people across the country would focus on finding ways to help just as they did the last time. Fortunately, this time government officials did a good job of preparation and evacuation, and Hurricane Gustav didn't hit directly anyhow.

So was I hearing as I wrote this that the Republicans weren't sure McCain would speak on Thursday night?

Was it because Hurricane Hanna was headed for the East Coast, followed by Ike? Will there be a tornado, a wildfire, or plague of locusts somewhere in the nation? Let's just cancel the convention and have the candidates for president and vice president give a speech sometime when its convenient for everyone and make this a permanent cancellation for both Republicans and Democrats. Do we really need these extravaganzas to choose our leaders?

It occurs to me that if delegates just quietly met, listened to a few speakers, enjoyed each other's company without chanting, waving things and wearing funny clothes, then they wouldn't ever have to worry about the perception that Republicans were fiddling while something burned somewhere.

Ah, now I see what was bothering me: The pandering to perception.

We all know that the party leaders were less worried about New Orleans than the perception that they weren't worried about New Orleans. Meanwhile the rest of us kept an eye on the Weather Channel, especially if we had friends or relatives in the path, but went on with our enjoyable weekend. Why can't partisan politicos be normal?

And of course the Democratic leaders were caught on tape joking that "God must be on our side" because He sent a storm to spoil the Republican Party's party.

Here's a slogan: "Democrats smirked while Gustav lurked."

In fact, Massachusetts Democrats, including our governor and lieutenant governor, happily partied last week while word leaked out back home that our state is in fiscal crisis, again. The State House News Service reported last Thursday that "Gov. Deval Patrick and Democratic legislative leaders will find a deteriorating budget mess when they return from the Democratic National Convention in Denver ... (including the) potential need for approximately $1 billion in budgetary solutions."

Did you see any of the Bay State Democrats rushing back to avoid the perception that they were fiddling instead of doing their actual jobs of running our commonwealth?

Unlike the hurricane, which wasn't caused by Republicans no matter what Al Gore says, the state fiscal crisis is caused by irresponsible behavior on the part of our government leaders.

The Democrats here pass clearly unbalanced budgets, refuse to do necessary reforms, and buy more fiddles, while the economy on which many people depend is threatened.

Never mind. Regardless of the coming fiscal crisis and tax hikes here, the national disasters there, and political perceptions everywhere, I think I am going to really enjoy this election season. Hope you do too.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.