Obstructionpalooza

Bill Scher

Quite a week for progress-haters.

President Bush vetoes, for the second time, health insurance for millions more kids.

The conservative minority in the Senate (and oil-drenched Dem Mary Landrieu) scraped up just enough votes to block investment in renewable energy by ending handouts to Big Oil. (Alleged environmentalist Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., could have cast the critical 60th vote, but decided to skip town.)

A stripped down version of the energy bill — inoffensive, but amounting to a very small baby step — is expected to pass instead.

The arm of obstructionism reached halfway around the world to Bali, where White House officials are throttling the international effort to combat global warming. As the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists said:

The best we hoped for was that the U.S. would not hobble the rest of the world from moving forward. Our delegation here from the States has not been able to meet that low level of expectation.

In the face of all this obstruction, yesterday’s New York Times played up the conservatives’ obstructionist strategy as “muscle flexing” and “tight defense,” reducing the legislative process to sports entertainment.

Of course, such a media narrative is unsurprising and predictable.

Congressional leaders made the tactical mistake of blindly praising compromise for compromise’s sake, instead of rallying public support for clear and bold legislation, forcing conservatives to choose between supporting popular progress or explaining to voters their constant obstruction.

Having set expectations that some legislation would pass — despite knowing the conservative minority would never legislate in good faith — the media bestows failure on the majority when the minority blocks.

And yet, even though the recent children’s health bill and energy bill were compromises, they were principled compromises.

The bills still show what a new direction for America looks like, investing in our children, our environment and our economy.

They were still blocked by the conservative minority, more interested in the special interest than the public interest.

And in turn, soon the public will have the choice between those two visions.

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