Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Brush with greatness

As loyal readers of the Curmudgeon will recall, top politicos seek me out when they are in Chicago. In August in was Sen. Bill Nelson who sought my presence. Last night it was Congressman Robert Wexler (D-Fl).

A small gathering at a local law firm was the scene where powerful real estate developers and business people were there to meet and greet the congressman. After meeting the Curmudgeon in person, Rep. Wexler said with a smile, "Daily, you're doing a heckuva job!" He was most kind.

Congressman Wexler is a down to earth, normal, very approachable regular guy who happens to in Congress. He actually does have a good heart although that phrase must be retired after W using it so often. He made a name for himself on the Clinton Impeachment panel ably defending Bill against the corrupt and hypocritical Republicans who would later be unmasked as such. He is a stand-up guy and I wish I had the money to buy a house in Boca Raton so he could be my representative. Send donations to get rid of me perhaps?

His voting record, a little info here and here, is remarkably reasonable and based on logic, reason and what works. He also has been a leader in fighting to get paper trails for election re-counts and a secure voting system so that people can have confidence in the results. The Curmudgeon wrote about the latest developments on this issue just yesterday.

I asked him a burning question of national importance, "Who do you hate in Congress? Who would you rather stand in the rain than share a taxi with?" I said, "off the record." Congressman Wexler said, "Forget off the record" and proceeded to tell me who was a miserable human being in the House and Senate. I'll save that for another posting. Let's just say the words "racist, Republican, Senator and Alabama" came up. Another house member from Indiana came up as being horrible and it might be this guy but I could be wrong. (On the other hand have you ever know the Curmudgeon to be wrong?)

I even pressed him on the recent pork filled highway bill that had over 6,000 earmarks, or pork projects, including the famous $250,000,000 Alaskan bridge to an island of fifty people thanks to Republican Don Young. For that price they could each have been bought a Lear jet. I asked Wexler, "so what earmarks did you get?" He said he voted against the highway bill. He did get some exit on a highway somewhere but but he did vote against the bill and that tells you something about him.

After eating as much of the free food I could get my little claws on, I slinked out the gathering so as to avoid the crush of people seeking autographs and political insights. Another cranky day for the Curmudgeon was had by all.

P.S. Wexler has a much better looking press secretary than W. Cheers.


Blogger d.K. said...

Wow, you almost sound cheerful. I hope your wife and little cranky got to see that side of you, as I'm sure the moment was rare fleeting...

2:34 PM  
Blogger Crankyboy said...

Free food cheers me up. It will pass.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

Is the Curmudgeon ever wrong? Well looking at pretty press secretarys and putting it on the internet may not be the best decision.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Blunderford said...

Did you brush with greatness, or did he?

4:14 PM  
Blogger Crankyboy said...

Blunderford - Good catch. He brushed me.

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Tony Blankley said...

It is sad evidence of the bitterness, intense partisanship and mindless ideology of our current politics, that President Bush's proposal for the reconstruction of New Orleans and the other devastated Gulf communities has been received with such thoughtless criticism across much of the political spectrum.
In the minutes and hours after the president's speech, famous journalists were criticizing the president for wearing a blue shirt ("it didn't set off well from the blue background") and the location of his speech ("picking a beauty spot when he was only yards from destruction was dishonest"). The sheer shallowness and vacuity of such observations at our first moment of serious, national consideration of one of America's worst calamities is breathtaking.
Worse, the pettiness of the president's loyal opposition — Sen. Harry Reid and other leading Democrats — holding press conferences before the speech in order to criticize what they had not yet even heard, further discredits their standing as serious statesmen.
In lonely and noble exception to such attitudes stands the article by Donna Brazile (a leading Democratic Party partisan and campaign manager of Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign) who thanked the president for his unprecedented support of New Orleans and the Gulf region and offered to work with him to make it a great success.
Some people will note as almost an excuse for her fine statement (in fact privately a couple of Democrats in town have already said to me) that she is from New Orleans — as if that excused her failure to viciously attack the president. Has it come to that in our political class? Are they completely unable to see a national obligation when it arises — and behave accordingly? It is manifestly impossible for Louisiana (and Mississippi) to handle their crises. They were two of the poorest states before the hurricane. Now they have lost much of their economic base. Good heavens, the entire economic activity of New Orleans has been extinguished for some unknown length of time.
We are one nation, one admittedly raucous family, and when a member of our family has been overwhelmed beyond any plausible ability to manage by itself, the rest of the family must unite to save it. Afterward, we can continue the bickering if we must.
On the conservative side, a certain ideological rigidity is on display. A conservative television host, among others, deplored the president's statement that historic racism had a role in poverty. Now, I fully share (and have written on in the last week) the conservative view that persistent poverty in the inner cities is substantially caused by government welfare programs that breed dependency — not by the remnants of racism in our society.
And if that is all the president had said I would have raised a skeptical eyebrow.
But the president's outline of his approach to the redevelopment was stunningly Kempian: enterprise zones, individual job-training accounts, tuition voucher's for parents of school children, urban homesteading. His opening proposals minimize bureaucracy and maximize individual initiative and responsibility.
In light of such commitments, the president's one sentence reference to "historic" racism should have been seen as a bow to the sensibilities of many of our citizens (and also a gesture of ideological modesty that despite our convictions, there may be a small "racism" truth as well as a larger "dependency" truth as to the causes of poverty).
When it comes to paying for this vast project, predictably the liberals said raise taxes, the conservatives said cut spending, and Mr. Bush said raise the deficit. All three reflective answers have their shortcomings. Paying it all with taxes would have a depressive, job-killing effect on an economy that is OK, but could turn downward if we are not careful.
Budget cuts are essential, but won't be enough. In my judgment, at least, reducing appropriated spending over the next six to 12 months by about $50 billion is doable, but would be extraordinarily hard. (We could start with $25 billion of earmarked highway construction and send that money to the more pressing needs of Gulf reconstruction of downed bridges and washed-out roads.) More is simply not politically plausible. Remember, in 1995, when Newt Gingich's 104th Congress cut about $50 billion out of actual appropriations, it took a year of intense political and budgetary struggle to accomplish. Now we are going to need at least $200 billion.
That leaves deficits — Mr. Bush's preferred financing method. With Treasury revenues up recently, and with low inflation and low long-term interest rates, the economy can probably absorb that level of further debt.
But it should make us all very uneasy. The deficit would approach or pass 5 percent of GDP. War costs continue to mount. Another terrorist attack could cost as much to manage. And overhanging all that are the vast structural deficits of Social Security and Medicare that in a very few years will make a deficit of 5 percent of GDP look like Victorian fiscal probity.
Is it beyond the imagination of political realists to pay for the reconstruction with substantial budget cuts, modest tax increases and the remainder in debt?

7:40 AM  
Blogger d.K. said...

"Tony Blankley's" outrage at the "intense partisanship" is so interesting. It would be laughable if it weren't so sad. He points out how Louisiana and Mississippi were poor states before the hurricane, so our help as a nation is essential to help them recover. I agree. Where is his outrage that our national government didn't jump in immediately to help these "poor states" before and right after the hurricane hit?
These arguments have absolutely no credibility because, while he probably thinks he's enlightened, I challenge anyone to find one criticsm of the administration. It is a lengthy diatribe against "liberals." There is no intellectual honesty whatsoever. He's making a political, partisan argument. With all those examples of outrage, not one criticsm of the "other half?" Please... I'm sorry I wasted the minute reading that rant.

6:14 PM  

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