by Kevin Wright
There has been a considerable amount of heated rhetoric spewed from the mouths of politicians and elected leaders recently regarding the upcoming debt ceiling fight. Perhaps more so than others, President Barack Obama has engaged in the sort of partisan bombast that he and others campaigned against in 2012.
On Monday, January 14th, President Obama held the last press conference of his first term. In it, President Obama said he was unwilling to negotiate on raising the debt ceiling and went on to accuse Republicans of putting a gun to the “head of the American people” for insisting on tying spending cuts to increasing the country’s debt load.
Obama: “What I will not do is to have that negotiation with a gun at the head of the American people. . .”
And as Elspeth Reeve over at The Atlantic Wire wrote, Obama “wouldn’t negotiate with hostage-taking terrorists which is how he is construing the House Republicans who are threatening to block raising the debt ceiling.”
Obama: “. . . [Republicans] will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. The financial well-being of the American people is not leverage to be used. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip.”
It should come as no surprise that the establishment media has not criticized the President for using such inflammatory, intransigent, partisan language. However, what should come as a surprise to Virginia voters is Senator Tim Kaine’s silence.
You see, during the 2012 U.S. Senate campaign, then-candidate Tim Kaine set about casting himself as the reasonable, middle-of-the-road, consensus-building, bipartisan do-gooder that would go to Washington and naturally fix it by working across the aisle. Kaine, as he said, would “listen” and work on “finding common ground” for the good of the Commonwealth and the country.
At the same time, Kaine and his campaign successfully portrayed Republican candidate George Allen as a mean-spirited partisan that represented the worst of what Washington had to offer. Time and time again, Kaine stuck to his talking points about Allen’s “smash mouth politics” and use of rhetoric like “knocking Democrats soft teeth down their whiney throats.”
The Kaine political machine was so committed to this strategy that Kaine even feigned righteous indignation when he completely manufactured an issue to depict Allen as an out-of-control partisan.
Consider the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce debate in Tysons Corner on September 20, 2012. At that debate Kaine engaged Allen over sequestration, accusing Allen of using the term “hostage,” even though Allen never used the language. Here’s the excerpt of the exchange between Allen and Kaine:
Allen: “Folks, lower taxes increase jobs, greater opportunity makes our country more competitive. It amazes me that Tim would raise taxes on people buying used cars of the folks earning as low as $17,000 a year then putting a 100,000 Virginia defense and technology jobs and in my view the men and women in our armed forces should never be used as a political bargaining chip to raise taxes on job creating small businesses.”
Kaine: First, I’d point out the last rhetoric about taking veterans hostage on economic issues: that’s exactly the kind of name calling that we’ve got too much of in Washington. We can debate policies, but that’s the kind of name calling that we have too much in Washington. What’s wrong in Washington is not going to be fixed by more of that.”
On October 18, 2012, Kaine and Allen held their last debate in Blacksburg, Virginia, on the campus of Virginia Tech. There, Kaine again attacked Allen for using non-existent heated rhetoric about hostages. Here’s the excerpt of that exchange:
Allen: “Tim talks about raising taxes again. I think it is wrong. To be using the 200 men and women — 200,000 men and women in Virginia whose jobs are threatened by the sequestration deal that I opposed and Tim said in debates is the right thing to do. They should not be used as a political bargaining chip to raise taxes on small businesses.”
Kaine: “George, you stand — he started by answering I am trying to hold the military hostage to raise taxes.”
Unquestioned by the media and unnoticed by most Virginians, the strategy deployed by the Kaine campaign was executed perfectly.
But there’s the rub: it was a strategy and nothing more.
Kaine’s silence on Obama’s over-the-top, partisan rhetoric proves that Kaine’s promise to Virginians to be a reasonable voice in an unreasonable Washington was nothing more than another slick, say-anything-to-get-elected campaign that the people have grown tired of.
Kaine should demonstrate the same sort of anger over Obama’s actual rhetoric as he feigned over Allen’s imaginary language. He won’t of course, because as Kaine said, “I’m doing what the President wants me to do.”