Just listened to Tucker Bounds on MSNBC. I think I've figured out why it seems like the Republicans are always lying:
They don't know the meaning of ordinary English words.
Clearly, as I will explain below the fold, they don't know the meaning of the word "bipartisanship." Now that I've had this epiphany, however, I see that their lack of knowledge of ordinary words seems to be a recurring pattern.
Palin's statement that Obama "is pallin' around with terrorists," for instance? Obviously she doesn't know what the meaning of "is" is. McCain's claims to be a friend of veterans shows he doesn't understand what the word "friend" means (a truth further demonstrated by the fact that in all his speeches he keeps calling me his friend. Uh, no.)
And I'm pretty sure that the definition of the word "know" also eludes Sen. McCain, given that he has told us he "knows" how to: find Osama bin Laden, win wars, end the war in Iraq with honor and victory, and fix the economy, among other things, but has yet to demonstrate any actual knowledge on any of those subjects.
But back to the original basis for my epiphany: David Shuster's interview of Tucker Bounds. Tucker began his revelation of ignorance by stating, as I've heard McCain himself and others in his campaign state on previous occasions:
The only candidate in this election that [sic] has a record of bipartisan success is John McCain. Barack Obama has absolutely no record of bucking his own party for change that will do Americans better.
Had I not heard this exact talking point, expressed exactly the same way, on so many other occasions, I might have thought that Tucker was actually talking about two different topics and had just forgotten to put any transition words in there to show he was changing subjects in the middle. But since I have heard it before, I realized that what he was saying is that bipartisanship means voting against your own party's position.
Now, this Tucker Bounds guy, I assume he's been in politics for quite a while, or else why would a major party nominee for President have him as a spokesidiot? And I'm just a lowly math teacher. So I thought, "Well, golly gee, maybe I'm wrong about what bipartisanship means, and Tucker's right."
So I went to Dictionary.com and looked it up. Here are the top two definitions for bipartisan:
Dictionary.com Unabridged: Representing, characterized by, or including members from two parties or factions
American Heritage Dictionary: Of, consisting of, or supported by members of two parties, especially two major political parties
Yep, that's what I thought. It's about bringing two parties together, not about rejecting what one party does.
But wait, there's more. After that first statement, David said,
Tucker Bounds, I think you'd get some complaints from the Obama campaign, who would point out to you Barack Obama working with Senator Coburn or Senator Lugar, but I think you would probably say "Hey, . . . those are not big issues that he was working on," so I think we'll leave it there.
Tucker responded first by laughing (have you ever noticed how many of McCain's surrogates spend more time laughing than responding substantively to the points raised? That . . . um . . . woman Nancy Pfotenhauer is particularly offensive in this regard), and then he said,
"Unanimous voice votes, David, unanimous voice votes. Not exactly controversial stuff."
Well, again I headed over to Dictionary.com to see if I had somehow missed a reference to controversy being a required element of bipartisanship. Nope, not at all.
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So I started thinking about what the existence or absence of controversy might mean in the context of whether a legislator is exercising bipartisan leadership.
I remembered hearing that there were members of both parties who were less than pleased with the passage of the ethics legislation. Obviously it was a unanimous voice vote; who on earth could have gotten elected to that elite body, the Senate, if they were so stupid as to publicly vote against Senate ethics reform? That would be a guaranteed ticket home in the next election.
But digging a little deeper, part of the reason it was "noncontroversial" was that everyone agreed it addressed a real problem, and addressed it in a way that made sense. (It could have gone farther, but that's a discussion for another day.) And yet, until Sens. Obama and Coburn attacked these issues, they had been languishing around for about 20 years or so. Pulling them out of obscurity and demanding that they be addressed -- by creating a bipartisan bill that actually came before the Senate for a vote -- was one of the very first things freshman Senator Obama did, even knowing that it might make him some enemies among both parties. If that's not leadership -- bipartisan leadership -- what is it?
As for the non-proliferation legislation he sponsored with Lugar: I heard Barack speak on this topic for the first time recently -- I think in his second debate. He made clear why it was important enough to be one of the first topics he tackled upon entering the Senate. His explanation showed that he is cognizant of the nature of the threats we face in today's world, and it showed that he had the presence of mind to do something about it.
Others in the Senate either didn't have the judgment to comprehend the serious nature of the threat addressed by this legislation, or, despite knowing the threat, they did nothing about it. If they didn't understand it, then obviously the fact that the legislation passed on a unanimous voice vote means that Obama and Coburn did a good job educating their colleagues on the issue.
If the Senate understood the threat, but had done nothing about it until Obama came along, then that demonstrates Obama's wisdom when he says he's seeking the White House because we need to get serious about solving the problems that eveyone in Washington knows about, but no one does anything about.
In any case, it seems to me that the purpose of bipartisan leadership is to deal with issues in such a way that by the time you bring something to a vote, you have found common ground and addressed everybody's concerns. In other words, the fact that legislation passes with a unanimous voice vote is evidence of the existence, not the lack, of bipartisan leadership.
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As evidenced by my sig line, I sincerely believe that John McCain's life is all about war and fighting. So it does not surprise me that his definition of "bipartisanship," like just about every other concept in his brain, somehow relates to fighting: if you're not fighting your party, it's not bipartisanship. If there's no fighting on the Senate floor, it's not bipartisan leadership, or it's not about a subject that matters.
But, as Joe Biden says in my very favorite quote from him,
"We don't need a brave soldier. We need a wise leader."
And the essence of wise leadership, it seems to me, is the ability to bring people together to solve problems in a way that is so sensible that it leaves everyone wondering what the hell we've been fighting about all this time.