Republicans: Don’t ask, don’t care
During the midterm elections, Republicans criticized Democrats for ignoring America and promised the electorate that they would listen to its opinions. However, Republican actions in the lame duck session on the START treaty, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Bush tax cuts, show that they care more about scoring political points against President Obama than what the American people think.
Republican treatment of the New START treaty shows Republicans’ dedication to ignoring America’s wants. The original START treaty, proposed by President Reagan and signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1991, aimed to reduce the number of nuclear weapons—a major goal of President Obama. The treaty has garnered tremendous support from Republican foreign policy experts like former Secretaries of State Colin Powell, James Baker and Henry Kissinger, among others. Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar (R-IN), strongly supports the treaty. CNN/Opinion Research polled that 73 percent of Americans support ratification. The Senate seemed to listen to the American public when the treaty passed the committee 14-4.
The problem arose when Republicans saw the treaty as a potential victory for President Obama. The second most powerful Republican, Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), has demanded more concessions to gain Republican support, slowing down the process. Even Republicans who voted for the treaty in committee now publicly oppose it. Despite the support of the American people and conservative foreign policy experts, Republicans are blocking the START treaty to portray the Democrats as weak and ineffective.
Republican obstructionism to score political points spreads beyond the START treaty. The military’s ban of openly gay soldiers hurts American security by discriminating against talented and patriotic soldiers. President Obama made repeal of the policy a campaign promise. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen both support a repeal and polls show strong American support for abolishment of this unfair law. Congressional Democrats have tried to repeal this bigoted policy but cannot get passed Republican obstructionism.
The leader of the opposition has been former moderate Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who sees no problem with ridding the military of exceptional soldiers based on their sexual orientation. He called for a hearing with military leaders about the policy; the leaders at the hearing supported repeal. Then McCain called for a Pentagon study of the policy. The study outlined how repeal would work and supported the action. Now McCain calls the study biased and demands hearings on the study. McCain’s conservative colleagues have banded together to oppose any repeal. Despite the tremendous support of military leaders and the American public, Republicans oppose repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to prevent the President from achieving his goals.
The area in which Republicans care least about Americans is the Bush tax cuts. Congress must make a choice whether to extend the tax cuts to all, let them expire for all or extend them only for those making under a certain amount. Congressional Democrats advocate for these tax cuts going to those hit hard by the struggling economy, while reducing the budget deficit by not giving a tax break to the rich. Democrats propose not extending the tax cuts for the two percent of the population making $250,000 or more: According to the Congressional Budget Office, doing this will reduce the debt by one trillion dollars over the next decade. The Republicans have stuck up for the rich, calling for a full extension of the Bush tax cuts. As much as the Republicans accuse Democrats of redistribution of wealth, one of every eight dollars that Bush sent out in tax rebate checks went to the wealthiest thousand Americans.
The polling on this topic varies more than the START Treaty or Don’t Ask Don’t Tell because the framing of the question by various partisan polling firms changes the results significantly. One of the best nonpartisan pollsters, Gallup, polled the topic and only 37 percent favored extending tax cuts to the rich while 15 percent supported ending the Bush tax cuts and 44 percent supported tax cuts only for those making under $250,000. Other nonpartisan groups show similar support for repealing these tax cuts for the rich, but despite the American public’s opinion, the Republicans have held tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans hostage by rejecting cuts that do not include the rich.
Recent Republican action shows that they still care more about scoring points and defeating President Obama than representing America. They have not kept their views secret: The Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), said their goal in the Senate was to defeat President Obama in 2012. This strategy could work but at the great expense of the economy, civil rights and American global prestige.