A New Name For “No Labels”

No doubt by now you have seen Jon Huntsman and Joe Manchin, one a conservative Republican and the other a conservative Democrat, on TV. They have been named as national co-leaders for the so-called No Labels campaign. They advertise themselves, and their group, as “problem solvers.”

Although I admire almost any effort to solve the nation’s problems, I will say that a better label for the group, as currently oriented, would be, “No Balls.”

By that I mean this: There is only one way to get this Congress in a position to get anything meaningful done, and that is a willingness to tell the truth about why Washington is so dysfunctional.

Jon Huntsman was asked on CNN this afternoon if it was a good idea for Republicans to use the debt ceiling as leverage in the budget debate. Rather than tell the truth, that is, no labelsrather than say that such a thing would be dangerous and reckless and Republicans should not even think about it, he he-hawed around about “problem solving.”

That’s what happens when you get a couple of squishy conservatives together. They’re afraid to criticize other conservatives, even if those other conservatives have shown a willingness to ruin the economy in the name of their particular brand of conservatism. And nothing will change on the Republican side until they are made to pay a political price for their recklessness.

In the few minutes Huntsman and Manchin were on CNN, I bet I heard the “both sides are guilty” meme a thousand times. Nope. Both sides, at least in this case, are not guilty. As President Obama has demonstrated way too often, it is he and the Democrats who have been willing to compromise and the other side has mostly refused.

Yet, on CNN and elsewhere, the journalists who interview these two No Balls personalities, act like the hostage takers and those trying to prevent the hostage takers from shooting the hostage are morally on the same ground.

No balls journalists and no balls politicians. That’s how Republicans can get away with their obstruction, and what soon may be their destruction. No Balls should at least follow President Obama on this one issue, as he explained it today during his presser:

What I will not do is to have that negotiation with a gun at the head of the American people; the threat that unless we get our way, unless you gut Medicare or Medicaid or, you know, otherwise slash things that the American people don’t believe should be slashed, that we’re going to threaten to wreck the entire economy.

If anyone from No Balls would at least acknowledge this simple reality, then I would award them a set.

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  1. You are of course right in this post, Duane, but I heard Huntsman on the noon news and his sins, as you imply, are only those of omission. He talks like a sane and sensible man (his religion not withstanding). To his credit, he is saying things that need to be said, that compromise and cooperation are vital on everything from gun control to economics. This is positive. And what you might have included in this post is Colin Powell and his strong condemnation of racism in his chosen political party and yet another call for sensible cooperation on gun control. If all the GOP were like Huntsman and Powell, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in. Blanket condemnation of the opposition may be satisfying but I believe Abraham Lincoln had the right formula. The proper way of Democracy is one of patient albeit painful discourse. Politics should be about cooperation and compromise, not partisan warfare, even when its the other side that wants to fight. IMO.


    • Jim,

      I guess my point is this: The reason we don’t have the kind of compromises that you might want is because those “reasonable” Republicans (and I agree that Huntsman is one of them) won’t just come out and say how absurd and ridiculous a fight over the debt ceiling is. The folks who are destabilizing governance need to be isolated, not coddled. They won’t change their behavior under “let’s just get together and talk” pressure.

      By isolating the troublemakers, by ridiculing their dangerous and reckless positions, we free up those relatively more moderate members to act responsibly. I have argued since the GOP took over the House in 2010, that John Boehner could, if he wanted to, get things done in the House by ignoring that group of extremists who don’t really want to govern.

      I argued during the 2011 debt-ceiling fiasco that all Boehner had to do was let a vote come to the floor over a plan that passed the Senate and it would pass with near-unanimous Democratic votes and a handful of Republicans. That’s essentially what happened at the end of last year.

      Let’s be clear here. The only reason we are worrying about the debt ceiling crash is because there are some rather loud, but thankfully still small, number of saboteurs actually willing to do the dirty deed. In the end, we can be reasonably certain that John Boehner will not be responsible for any default on our obligations. If he has to, he will do again what he did in December and let Democrats pull his ass out of the fire.

      But I want more than a settlement of that issue. I don’t want Republicans to think it is safe to shut down the government over the budget resolution issue, either. That will damage the recovery, too. And to the extent that the No Labels crowd (who I agree are better conservatives than the ones controlling the GOP in Congress right now) refuse to call out the extremists who want nothing but their way, then it makes it harder to get those who would compromise to get on board and do it.



  2. writer89

     /  January 14, 2013

    I’m not sure I would use Lincoln as an example of this principle, Jim. The Emancipation Proclamation notwithstanding, he tried his best to avoid civil war, but soon discovered that the only way to “compromise” with the slaveholders was to kick their collective asses until they agreed to compromise by surrendering. It is pretty much their descendants who are still the problem today, and kicking their asses (as Obama did in November and again in December) is going to be the best solution. And the people like Manchin and Huntsman who continue to blame both sides and call for compromise are going to be about as effective as the Whigs and will eventually be forced (as were most of the Whigs) to either quit politics or change parties! And it ain’t going to be pretty.


    • Writer, I commend you to a reading of Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals”. I’m only about 30% through it, but it’s clear that Lincoln was altogether circumspect in approaching the central issue of slavery, even though he was at heart an abolitionist. In the beginning he supported the purpose of the war as anti-secession and not anti-slavery. Lincoln embraced politics as an art, and at that, I submit, he was a genius.


      • writer89

         /  January 14, 2013

        My point exactly. In the end, though he tried, Lincoln could not avoid a war to end slavery, though he originally saw it as anti-secession. And if Obama really thinks he can avoid some kind of “war” (probably not a shooting war, for the most part) to end racism and sexism, control guns, reform immigration policy, fully legalize freedom of choice, end the war on drugs, end the power of the military-industrial complex, reform the tax code and defend the right to vote, he is going to be very disappointed! Hopefully, in the end, he will resign himself to the need to go to the mats rather than compromise with people who hate him and all he stands for.


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