Who Would Dare Veto the Sandy Bill?

"Folks have put politics ahead of their responsibilities."

So declared New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in a highly-publicized news conference where he blasted House Republicans for failure to approve the $60 billion Hurricane Sandy aid package.

Christie's stunt -- besides providing another opportunity for the Democrat-media complex to rile up public sentiment to further "stick it to the Man" (i.e. conservatives and "the rich") and an example of the GOP once again exhibiting symptoms of "Stick-it-to-Our-Own-e-osis" -- needs to be evaluated with a little historical perspective. A century ago, President Grover Cleveland, had he been presented with the Sandy bill, might have declared instead:

"Folks have put politics ahead of the Constitution."

For even if the House passed the Sandy aid package, President Cleveland would have done much more than hold a press conference to blast any person or party for action or inaction. Cleveland would have outright vetoed the bill.

Why am I so sure? In 1887, another natural disaster -- a drought -- resulted in suffering for some Texas farmers. Congress approved a bill to provide $10,000 in aid to the farmers, and sent it to Cleveland to sign. But Cleveland vetoed the bill, writing:

I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution; and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadily resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the Government, the Government should not support the people.

One can only imagine what Cleveland would have said if certain members of Congress had more than doubled the initial Texas bill with pork that was not only unrelated, but also not intended to relieve any individual's suffering. (Unless, of course, one could consider the angst of the politicians who had to go back to their constituencies or cronies without the bacon as "suffering.")

In the late 19th century we had a president empowered by the same Constitution we have now, who felt its limitations mattered. Today's politicians, judges, academia and mainstream media are unashamed to openly defy the Constitution, circumvent it, or declare it outdated and irrelevant -- while at the same time seeking to publicly shame those who strive to adhere to it, or at the very least hesitate to spend what our treasury doesn't hold. In this new, reverse view of politics, it is Christie's "good people" who must make sure the Government supports other people by redistributing taxpayer's money -- thus implying that those who resist are "bad people" who themselves must be "steadily resisted."

Jack Cashill, in his American Thinker article on the Sandy relief package titled "Should your children pay for my roller-coaster?" noted that "[y]ears ago, [Sandy victims] would not have expected you and I to cover their storm losses any more than they would have expected us to cover their losses after a bad night in Atlantic City. But that was years ago, and this is now, and everyone has his hand out, and none more aggressively than the presumably Republican governor."

There is so much wrong with the Sandy bill shenanigans and the Christie speech that one hardly knows where to begin. Comparisons to Katrina and Bush are an irresistible start. The next generation will probably grow up believing that Bush was responsible for the hurricane itself. This time, the media narrative is that the Sandy relief buck stopped not at President Obama's desk, but at Speaker Boehner's. Christie apparently bought that narrative's negative slant hook, line, and sinker. And although it appeared at the time that Christie was the prop in the Obama campaign Hurricane Sandy photo-ops, it now seems it was Christie who appreciated the eye candy as he plotted another popularity campaign -- his own.

Christie spent several sentences detailing how the numbers for the Sandy part of the aid bill were meticulously calculated, with no mention or acknowledgment of how the other two-thirds of the $60 billion package was determined or where it came from. Instead of slapping the Democrat hands that stuffed in unrelated pork that more than doubled the aid he wanted, Christie chose to very publicly slap the hands of his own party.

Such backlash within political ranks is nothing new, and it greatly affected Cleveland's popularity. According to economist Dr. Robert Higgs, "Cleveland's second term as president came to a sad end, as even his own party turned against him for the most part. After striving courageously for four years to preserve free markets, limited government, and a sound currency against those who urged resort to statist nostrums during the country's worst economic slump, Cleveland left office an extremely unpopular man."

Today, politicians gain in stature and popularity when they are known for helping their constituents by bringing home the bacon. Projects and programs are often engraved with the names of the politicians who carved funds out of the treasury to pay for them. Little recognition is given to the fact that the "help" provided by these politicians amounts to nothing more than helping themselves, their cronies, bureaucrats, and other voters to the money in other taxpayer pockets.

The Sandy relief package debacle is a prime example of Tocqueville's warning -- that a democracy will only last until politicians discover that they can bribe the public with the public's money, and a majority of voters discover they can vote themselves the treasury.

Instead of attacking his own party by giving speeches that come off sounding like editorials in a liberal newspaper or Democrat campaign commercials, perhaps Christie should step back and think about the proper role of federal vs. local government, charity, and self-sufficiency. The bold reformer that he supposedly is, Christie should be unafraid to rock the status quo and fight for what is ultimately best for all of his constituents -- not just the ones who suffered in Sandy. He should think about the growing deficit and the strings attached to his and other aid packages sure to come down the road in other states, as well as other big government federal programs that "help" others in need.

Instead and unfortunately, it looks like Christie is animated by the strings of his own ambition. Rather than a true conservative, Christie, even with his show of real (and deserved) sympathy for the hurricane's victims, with one hand "aggressively" held out and the other clutching the microphone, appears no different than any other politician in pursuit of power.

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