Monday, September 27, 2010


I see that yesterday John Boehner was on Fox News Sunday dodging the question of what exactly the Republicans would do to cut the spending they say they so revile. In fact, he said it was inappropriate to address this question now -- and as I read his reply, I thought to myself, "Where have I heard this before?"

Boehner, to Chris Wallace:

BOEHNER: Chris, we make it clear in there that we're going to lay out a plan to work toward a balanced budget and deal with the entitlement crisis. Chris, it's time for us as americans to have an adult conversation with each other about the serious challenges our country faces. And we can't have that serious conversation until we lay out the size of the problem. Once Americans understand how big the problem is, then we can begin to talk about potential solutions. [...]

WALLACE: Forgive me, sir, isn't the right time to have the adult conversation now before the election when you have this document [the Pledge to America]? Why not make a single proposal to cut social security, medicare and medicaid?

BOEHNER: Chris, this is what happens here in washington. When you start down that path, you just invite all kind of problems. I know. I've been there. I think we need to do this in a more systemic way and have this conversation first. Let's not get to the potential solutions. Let's make sure americans understand how big the problem is. Then we can talk about possible solutions and then work ourselves into those solutions that are doable.

Why does that sound familiar to me? Oh yeah -- because, when she was interviewed by Matt Bai of The New York Times Magazine for an article that appeared yesterday, GOP Senate candidate and wrestling doyenne Linda McMahon gave pretty much the same answer -- that it's inappropriate to tell voters what you'd like to do about the budget until after they've elected you: would seem to be incumbent on a candidate like McMahon, who also rails against the debt and who advocates a balanced budget in Washington, to articulate some specific idea of where the budget can be scaled back.

I asked her, for instance, whether she was in favor of reforming entitlement programs that, along with military outlays, represent the principal forces driving spending levels ever higher. "We're going to have to look at them," she said, "but I can tell you that that has got to be done in the legislative arena, with open debate, with people on both sides really tackling this and talking about it. We've got to strengthen our entitlement programs. We've got to make sure that our contract with seniors is maintained and upheld." But, she added: "I've made a specific point of saying I'm not going to go into that on the campaign trail, because I don't think that's appropriate. I think the appropriate arena is the legislative arena."

In other words, this business of governance was too serious to be discussed in any detail during a campaign, which McMahon seemed to regard more as an exercise in theater, like "Saturday Night's Main Event."

Ora, as Zandar says about Boehner:

Orange Julius's idea of an "adult conversation" is "Vote for us because shut up, that's why."

In any case, Boehner clearly wasn't fumbling the question. Boehner wasn't just giving an evasive, slippery answer to the question, he was giving an evasive, slippery answer to the question that's carefully focus-group tested. I'm sure it'll work, too.

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