Political theatre, games not solving problems

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sometimes we wonder at what point do we switch from beingDemocrats or Republicans and become citizens faced with problems tofix? At what point do we quit trying to land a punch instead offinding a way to find common ground? At what point do we quittrying to make each other look bad and work together to solveproblems?

Those questions arise following events last week in Jackson andin Washington.

In Jackson, Democrat House members Wednesday thought they had anissue they could finally hang around Republican Gov. HaleyBarbour’s neck. Trying to appear as wholesome as Mom and apple pie,House members put their collective arms around Mississippi’schildren and attempted to persuade members that the governor wasmore interested in helping special interests in China than helpingchildren.

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The stated purpose of the theatrical event was to overrideBarbour’s veto of a bill that would have required the attorneygeneral’s office to monitor and track defective toys sold withinthe state. The governor said he vetoed the bill because he believedit was more of an attempt to circumvent tort reform than to protectchildren.

At issue was really a power play to show who was the strongest.The veto-override failed 72-48, six votes short of the requiredtwo-thirds majority.

In Washington, President Bush sent Congress a Colombian tradeagreement for the legislative body to act on within the next 90days. The move could be seen as an election-year trick to exposeDemocratic weaknesses in the area of free trade.

Given the economic power of the U.S. and Colombia, the agreementis relatively insignificant. But it also one that is bitterlyopposed by many U.S. labor unions.

Instead of simply scheduling a vote, while wanting to shieldfellow Democrats and presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Clintonand Barack Obama from a vote on a free trade matter, House SpeakerNancy Pelosi got the rules changed so representatives do not haveto follow the timetable for a vote. Bush said the delay threatensrelations with an important South American ally while Pelosi saidthe agreement is dead unless there are “good faith” negotiationsbetween the legislative and executive branches.

Apparently, for Democrats, if they don’t like the game, theyjust change the rules. How convenient – especially for Clinton andObama.

With state problems like finding a long-term Medicaid fundingsolution and national challenges like Iraq and worsening economictimes, leaders are faced with tough decisions on tough issues.

Power play events like those of last week do nothing more thanwiden the gap between Democrats and Republicans. Meanwhile, therest of us back at home simply want solutions – not more politicaltheatre.