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"I Blame Society"

Another postcard from the "Responsibility Era":

One of the many conservative pundits shocked by the Medicare bill is Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post. After recounting her discovery of its many offenses, she concludes, in a paragraph that might at first seem like columnist pablum until you realize how outrageous it is, that it's no one's fault at all:

Medicare: Malaise . . . (washingtonpost.com)

But in part, I wonder whether something else is happening too. It's as if we as a nation have lost our appetite for grand domestic policy debates. We have extended, national conversations about the fate of O.J. Simpson or Rosie O'Donnell, and after Sept. 11, 2001, we rallied around the flag. But only twice, in recent memory, have we come together as a nation and vigorously pushed Congress to act on an issue of mass public concern. The first time, it was to pass a "Do Not Call Me at Home" law. The second time it was to pass a "Do Not Spam Me" law. As a nation, we adamantly reserve the right not to be hassled. As for everything else that Congress does -- it seems we are perfectly content not to know about it until the shouting's all over.

Does she not realize how incredibly hard certain people worked to prevent this domestic policy debate from taking place? Does she realize that not only the mystical "we as a nation" were aggressively excluded, but so were 93 elected Senators and several hundred members of the House of Representatives? Does she realize that there was a reason the bill was unveiled only a day before it was voted on in the middle of the night? Does she think these things just happened, and that men named Hastert, DeLay, Frist and Bush had nothing to do with them?

What came to mind as I read this paragraph was the great scene from the movie Repo Man, when Otto's friend, on his deathbed, says, "I know that a life of crime led me to this sorry fate. And yet, I blame society -- society made me what I am." To which Otto (Emilio Estevez) replies, "That's bullshit. You're a white suburban punk, just like me."

Some people are longing for Martin Sheen to be the real president. I'd settle for one truth-telling Otto.

Posted by Mark Schmitt on December 2, 2003 | Permalink


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Do you really think that Democrats had no choice in the matter? Certainly, there were Republicans who wanted the bill to pass in a certain form which might not withstand a partisan public debate. But even without control over the levers of parliamentary power, if the Democrats actually cared about the issue, they could have made a big public stink about the badness of the Republican proposals. It's not possible to "aggressively exclude" 93 senators and hundreds of representatives unless those senators and representatives are willing to be excluded.

The Democrats let Rove, Hastert and Frist "get away with it" because it serves their purposes to let a lousy bill pass. They can take credit for its passage if the consequences wait until after the election, and can blame the Republicans if the consequences arrive in September or October.

Posted by: Anthony | Dec 2, 2003 9:24:08 PM


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