As recently reported by The City Paper ’s Jeff Woods, Gov. Bill Haslam recently reprimanded state legislators for “introducing too many bills.” Haslam said the legislature should drastically curtail the number of new bills (about 2,200 the past year), explaining that “every bill that’s proposed actually does cost money.” He later told reporters, “As Republicans, we’re the party of smaller government. Let’s see if we can do that in terms of bill proposals.”
What happened to conservative principles such as “smaller” and “less intrusive” government? They seem to have flown out the window now that Republicans have the majority. Even worse, some of the bills are anti-freedom, anti-equality and, therefore, un-American. Will the majority really be “safer” if minorities are denied their constitutional rights and freedoms? How much money should Tennessee taxpayers be forced to fork out so that right-wing bigots can discriminate against teachers (and therefore students and their parents), the poor, the elderly, the medically uninsurable, union workers, gays, Hispanics, Muslims and anyone else who isn’t lily-white, rich and in the bloom of perfect health?
Woods noted the irony, pointing out that Haslam’s comments are “certain to irk Republican legislative leaders, who boasted of their efficiency at the end of this year’s session.” The sad reality seems to be that Tennessee Republicans are busy little beavers industriously whittling away at our cherished rights and freedoms. And like bad lawyers, they’re over-billing us for their “services.”
On a national level, things are even worse, since “fiscally responsible” conservatives never saw a trillion-dollar war they didn’t fall in love with at first sight. Their infatuation with military power is only exceeded by their hubris, as evidenced by the following quotations:
"Bring ’em on!" — George W. Bush
“We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.” — Dick Cheney
“I don’t do quagmires.” — Donald Rumsfeld
“I don’t do body counts.” — Donald Rumsfeld
“Deficits don’t matter.” — Dick Cheney
“I can’t tell you if the use of force in Iraq today will last five days, five weeks or five months, but it won’t last any longer than that.” — Donald Rumsfeld
“With every advance by our coalition forces, the wisdom of [our] plan becomes more apparent.” — Dick Cheney
If Republicans want to convince us that they’re fiscally responsible defenders of our constitutional rights, they should act in accordance with their principles. That would mean a smaller, more efficient, less intrusive government.
But there is no evidence that Republicans have any such intentions. Ronald Reagan kept the U.S. out of costly, unwinnable ground wars, even when Libya funded and supported acts of terrorism. If President Obama keeps us out of a ground war in Libya and manages to extract our troops from Afghanistan and Iraq in the near future, he will be the true, pragmatic heir of Reagan, knowing it is far better to carry a big stick for defensive purposes, than to use it for offensive purposes.
As the Southern proverb goes, “The proof is in the pudding.” So both here in Tennessee and nationally, Republicans need to deliver the goods or eat crow.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.