February 8, 2010
Who'll Call the Blue Dogs Out?By J. Robert Smith
When it comes to Blue Dog Democrats, the line spoken by Animal Mother to Private Joker in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket pops to mind: "You talk the talk. Do you walk the walk?"
So far, the answer from the Blue Dogs is a resounding no. Though Blue Dogs announced their own budget just prior to the President's State of the Union address, their efforts are too meager and really won't do enough to derail the president's budget, which should be the object of every right-thinking member of Congress.
If Blue Dogs want to prove they can walk the walk, then they must commit their voices and votes to sending Mr. Obama's budget-busting, tax-hiking budget to a recycling bin. Congressional Republicans need to call out Blue Dogs to join them in efforts to hand the president yet another defeat -- not gratuitously or to play cheap politics, but to save the country from policies that, if enacted, would fundamentally transform the nation and cripple the economy in ways that might surpass what Americans experienced in the 1930s.
For the last year, Blue Dogs have been as cowed by the Obama phenomenon, as were Washington's establishment Republicans. But now that the curtain has been pulled from the Great Obama, Blue Dogs, along with Washington's pale red Republicans, can't help but see that the president is nothing more than a slick elixir-peddler who got lucky.
So it's high time for Blue Dogs to stop acting like the tail the dog wags and start acting like the independent-minded centrists they claim to be. The same goes for their counterparts in the Senate, like Evan Bayh, Blanche Lincoln, and Mary Landrieu, who showed precious little backbone during the health care fight.
Over in the House, the fifty-odd Blue Dogs have played all sorts of games with their votes with the blessings of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. To protect their seats, some Blue Dogs got to take a walk at vote time on health care reform legislation. Others voted for the health care grab, succumbing to blandishments and ladles of pork.
Being too clever by half won't work this go-round for Blue Dogs on the budget. The power on the political microscope has been ramped up. Game-playing will show up like a nasty virus.
Coming out of Mr. Obama's health care debacle, Senator Bayh has suddenly found the intestinal fortitude and voice to raise concerns about the leftward lurch of his party. House Blue Dogs may grouse as well about their party's leftward tilt. But all the yammering and grousing is so much chafe on the wind. It's votes that count, and Blue Dogs' votes need to be aimed squarely against the president's budget proposal.
Defeating -- not amending or watering down -- the Obama budget needs to be the imperative. Calling for a division among Democrats -- specifically, calling on Blue Dogs to abandon their party and stand against the president's budget proposal -- is politics of the highest sort. Why?
The stakes go well beyond a typical partisan tug-of-war over a chief executive's annual budget. Mr. Obama's budget is yet another attempt to impose statism on the nation. On the heels of the fight over government-run health care legislation, the budget presents another challenge to the nation's future, and by that is meant a battle over the character of the nation, a contest about the fundamental reason why the United States exists. Is the United States an ongoing experiment in liberty or merely a johnny-come-lately to European welfare statism?
Mr. Obama's unending fixation with transforming the nation has produced a budget that is highly redistributive, grows government dramatically, and pulls more and more Americans into either being recipients or professional dispensers of government largess. In other words, if the president and congressional Democratic leaders succeed, the United States will, over time, become a land dominated by government dealers and junkies.
When all is said and done, Mr. Obama's budget proposal can't be fixed. Blue Dogs can't put band-aids on it and claim victory and be permitted to get away with it.
That's why it matters greatly that Blue Dogs are called out. Either they demonstrate that they are in fact centrists who believe in the nation's experiment in freedom, or they're made to show themselves again as liberal lapdogs, which yap and bark, but aren't even close to being liberty's watchdogs. If the latter, many Blue Dogs will consign themselves to electoral oblivion this November. If the former, then they may point the way for more moderate Democrats -- granted, a dwindling population -- who never bargained for welfare statism on the grand scale of Germany, France, or Belgium.
Republicans simply can't allow Blue Dogs to have it both ways: voting here or there against the budget and here or there to move it through to passage. It's time to end the Blue Dogs' legislative weasel ways and push them to open account.
Liberal pundits from Washington north to Boston will holler at the idea of another major defeat for the president, one that further hobbles him in the domestic legislative arena. Certainly, Blue Dogs will come under fire if they publicly go into opposition. But it's voters back home, and not the chattering classes, who should count to these self-advertised centrists.
The nation is rapidly approaching a time, as parliamentarians say, for a division of the house. There's no room for straddlers, for those who wish to shave differences. Choose liberty or choose statism. Which will it be?
Are the Blue Dogs ready to walk the walk? With the right pressure from congressional Republicans, we'll find out soon enough.