Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nussle Officially Takes Financial Helm of Bush’s Sinking Ship

Generally speaking, padding your resume with the title of director of the White House Office of Management and Budget would be considered a vertical move for political climbers. Jumping aboard President Bush’s S.S. Lame Duck, however, may have dire political consequences for former Iowa Rep. Jim Nussle, who was officially sworn in as Bush’s budget chief Monday. While a number of those in Bush’s cabinet have bailed ship, Nussle has agreed to sign on to Bush’s crew.

As his administration attempts to navigate the shark-infested waters of bloodthirsty Democrats before next year’s fiscal budget begins, Bush has chosen to “stay the course” and steer the S.S. Lame Duck, full throttle, toward the iceberg, Iraq. Meanwhile, the Democrat-controlled Senate has approved only one of the 12 House-passed appropriation bills to fund the new fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

President Bush offers to hold Nussle's sports jacket as he prepares to walk obligatory plank on S.S. Lame Duck

Now, armed with the threat of Bush’s newly discovered weapon of choice, VETO, Nussle will have to negotiate the budget with top congressional Democrats. Bush has already threatened to veto some budgetary items bound to plunge his approval ratings even deeper into the abyss of forgotten presidents. Bush’s current approval ratings are hovering around 30 percent, but these should plummet as GOP leaders, one by one, continue abandoning the president, who has chained himself to the budgetary elephant in the room, the war in Iraq.

Using his Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to do his dirty business, Bush has already indirectly threatened to veto a Veterans Affairs funding bill that would give the Department of Veterans Affairs as much as $3.8 billion more than the Bush administration proposed in its budget.

“If Congress increases VA funding above the president’s request and does not offset this increase with spending reductions in other bills, the president will veto any of the other bills that exceed his request until Congress demonstrates a path to reach the president’s top line of $933 billion,” the OMB said in a July statement.

Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, chairman of the House veterans affairs appropriations subcommittee, responded, “This bill is about respect and honors the promises made to our veterans with historic increases in funding to provide them the health care and benefits they earned when they put on our nation’s uniform.”

If shortchanging our veterans isn’t bad enough, Bush has also threatened to veto legislation that would renew the popular State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides health coverage to poor children. The Senate has proposed a $35 billion boost over the next five years for the program, but Bush’s budget calls for only $5 billion, contending he doesn’t want to further expand the government’s role in health insurance at the expense of private insurance.

Even Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who strongly supported Nussle during his confirmation hearings, implored the president to rescind his veto threat in a joint statement with Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, warning the president that the Democrats might seek an expansion of $50 billion or more if there is no compromise.

"Tax legislation to expand health insurance coverage is badly needed, but there's no Democratic support for it in the SCHIP debate," said Grassley, the ranking Republican on the finance panel. "In the meantime, our SCHIP initiative in the Finance Committee takes care of a program that's about to expire in a way that's more responsible than current law and $15 billion less than the budget resolution calls for."

Grassley’s words fell on the president’s deaf ears, while the Ahab-inspired Bush fixates on the ubiquitous “War on Terror,” and his “stay the course” mentality in Iraq. Threatening to underfund wounded veterans and sick children makes one wonder: Who’s next? Senior citizens.

Enter Bush’s new messenger, OMB Director Nussle, whose job is deliver the Bush monetary mantra to Congress. Nussle has the unenviable task of trying to persuade Congress why they should scale back on domestic funding, while simultaneously convincing them why they should fund the money pit in Iraq. As he indicated in his swearing-in ceremony, Nussle has no plans of changing the president’s fiscal course and appears content with playing Bush’s rubber-stamp man.

"I believe government spending should be restrained and it should be transparent so taxpayers can see what results they are getting for their money," Nussle said, adding that he looks forward to advancing Bush's "pro-growth, low-tax policies that have strengthened our economy."

After soundly losing his 2006 gubernatorial bid in Iowa against Democrat rival Chet Culver (52 – 43 percent), Nussle’s political career appeared washed up. Nussle had abandoned his First-District seat in Iowa, which was usurped by Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley. During his political interim, Nussle took refuge as a consultant in Cedar Rapids, where he landed a consultant gig with Giuliani’s Iowa campaign.

Then along came Bush, who’s no stranger to appointing good 'ol boys who have been loyal to him. Not to mention, Bush has a soft spot for appointing those whose political careers have taken a nose dive. Take former Attorney General John Ashcroft, for example, whose career also appeared to be washed up when he lost his 2000 senatorial re-election bid in Missouri to a dead candidate, Mel Carnahan, who died in a tragic plane crash two weeks prior to the election.

And now Bush’s prodigal son, Nussle, has returned to the political nest in D.C. While other Bush appointees are jumping ship, citing a need to spend more time with family, or as was the case with former White House spokesman Tony Snow, to procure a job that makes more money.

Bush and Nussle swap deficit-spending jokes while sharing a limo ride on the tax payers' dime

Unfortunately, as Nussle sets sail with the S.S. Lame Duck, not only does he risk permanently drowning his own political career, but if he helps perpetuate Bush’s current fiscal policies, it’s the American people, who will ultimately suffer the consequences as we continue sinking our tax dollars into the monetary quagmire in Iraq. Although I imagine the Bush crew has mapped out its exit strategy for when the ship goes down, procuring enough life preservers for the wealthy folks on the upper deck, while the rest of us remain trapped in the lower decks as we fight for our lives, only to keep drowning in Bush’s sea of misguided fiscal policies.

Good luck, Mr. Nussle. P.S. Don’t forget to pack your PFD (personal floatation device) when leaving for D.C.

Originally posted on "Iowa Independent"

Gay Marriage in Iowa and the Pending Apocalypse

(Disclaimer: In no way, shape or listless form is this column intended to threaten the sanctity of marriage. No legal unions between men and women dissolved during the writing process. Nonetheless, some readers should proceed with caution if their faith in the sanctity of marriage is threatened by external forces such as the gay marriages of others, Village People songs at wedding receptions or literal translations of satiric parables. Keep in mind that the definition of satire is between satirists and their readers and should in no way be misconstrued by those who decry its very existence yet don't bother to read it. Such behavior will only serve to threaten the sanctity of satire, which in turn may lead to the end of the world as we know it.)

Upon hearing news of Polk County Judge Robert Hanson’s ruling smiting Iowa’s prohibition on same-sex marriage, I grabbed my well-thumbed copy of James Dobson’s “Marriage Under Fire,” hopped in my Sin City getaway car, and fled Des Moines before God had a chance to destroy the capital city with fire and brimstone. I had to reach moral high ground before it was too late. While crossing the county line, I was tempted to look back and steal one final glimpse of the capital city aflame.

But when I looked in the rear-view mirror, I felt disappointed. A firestorm had not consumed my place of birth; I had not turned into a pillar of salt. My wavering doubts in the sanctity of marriage slowly gave way to doubts about the moral prophets of doom, who have predicted that gay marriage not only will destroy the sanctity of marriage and the moral fiber of our society but also will serve as a precursor to the apocalypse.

Upon hearing Judge Hanson's ruling on same-sex marriage, the Lone Rider of the Apocalypse armed himself with throwing knives in order to protect his heterosexual marriage, which ended abruptly in divorce in 2002.

In his “Marriage Under Fire” manifesto, Dobson argues that same-sex marriage will bring about the end of the world: “The culture war will be over, and the world may soon become ‘as it was in the days of Noah.’” Dobson, chairman of the board of “Focus on the Family,” reiterated that theme in October 2004 when he asserted that allowing same-sex couples to wed would not only “destroy marriage. It will destroy the earth.”

One week later…

Des Moines is still standing, 21 gay couples are still married (although their licenses are now pending), and not a single heterosexual couple has reportedly filed for divorce on the grounds that gay marriage has ruined their union. Meanwhile, the moral meteorologists have lifted the fire and brimstone warnings, for now, since the window of opportunity for gay couples to marry in Polk County quickly slammed shut last Friday -- when Hanson agreed to suspend his day-old ruling.

The institution of marriage has managed to survive despite countless divorces and annulments, but those on the far right want us to believe that gay marriage will be the one thing that shreds the moral fiber of America. Speaking of unraveling, when Sen. David Vitter, R-La., was running for office in 2004, he warned about the toll gay marriage would have on our society in a statement on “Protecting the Sanctity of Marriage”: "The Hollywood left is redefining the most basic institution in human history.”

But this was nothing compared to Vitter’s off-color joke comparing the impact of gay marriage to the devastation wrought by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. "Unfortunately, it's the crossroads where Katrina meets Rita,” Vitter said while speaking at a Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee luncheon. "I always knew I was against same-sex unions."

This was all before Vitter’s name appeared on the “D.C. Madam’s” phone list and the lawmaker was accused of solicitation of a prostitute, which I believe I heard Dr. Phil once say is a threat to the sanctity of marriage. Vitter apologized for the incident and took full responsibility for his sins, thus cleansing him of wrongdoings. It appears adultery is forgivable but homosexuality remains damnable. Speaking of which, there is a component of our society that believes once gay marriage is legalized, the sky will fall:

The Sky Fell on these American Christians…

…the moment they opened their mouths and tried to string together a coherent line of logical analysis. Mark Twain said it best: “It’s better to be the fool and remain silent, then open your mouth and remove all doubt.” If these folks are God’s foot soldiers, He may want to consider reinstituting the draft.

Cue R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World”

It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.
Originally posted on "Iowa Indpendent"