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Katy Burns: O’Brien’s speech was like revisiting a nightmare

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, listens as he is endorsed by New Hampshire Speaker of the House Bill O'Brien at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, listens as he is endorsed by New Hampshire Speaker of the House Bill O'Brien at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

‘Jeanne Shaheen, Maggie Hassan, Carol Shea-Porter and Ann Kuster are enemies of freedom and part of an unfolding disaster. . . .

“Remember who are the enemies of New Hampshire as opposed to those who are our friends with whom we merely disagree on some issues.”

That was just some of the apocalyptic language employed by Rep. Bill O’Brien, former New Hampshire House speaker, when he addressed the so-called Freedom Summit in Concord earlier this month. O’Brien knows enemies when he sees them. And there are a lot.

O’Brien was there to be dubbed Conservative of the Year by the summit’s sponsors, Citizens United and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. But he would have been there anyway.

These – the honored out-of-town guests and the local audience – were his kind of people. Or, as he called them, “champions of American Liberty.” Presumably to distinguish them from the traitorous lot above who clearly detest American liberty.

There were national figures, primarily Congressional conservatives who like the idea of a little exposure in the first primary state, and a raft of local politicos, including a slew of those who were elected in 2010 and chose O’Brien as speaker in January 2011.

They were “sons and daughters of New Hampshire” who helped O’Brien upend the state government during his two-year reign. There would never be “a greater assembly of New Hampshire heroes,” he said. Then he sent forth an overwrought burst equal to anything the writers of, say, Game of Thrones might come up with.

“These heroes before you lightened the crushing footfalls of a liberal-engorged state government trampling on the Live Free or Die Soul of New Hampshire!”

Talk about purple prose! It was the sort of crackpot rhetoric one sees scrawled anonymously in newspaper comment sections, not emanating from the mind and mouth of an elected political leader. Even if he is (fortunately) currently out-of-power, if not out of office entirely. That is frightening.

And it’s more frightening that it found a welcoming audience among other so-called political leaders. At least if one can use the words “political leaders” to describe Iowa’s Steve (“Joe McCarthy is a great American hero”) King and Texas’s Louis (“John McCain supported al-Qaida”) Gohmert, two refugees from the Congressional clown car who made appearances in Concord that night.

In his brief remarks, O’Brien ran through what he clearly thought were his greatest hits, including a motley assortment of measures to weaken environmental protections, cripple unions and restrict voting rights.

What he didn’t talk about were some of his more dubious “achievements” and the outright failures of a reign characterized by autocratic bullying, and manipulation and abuse of procedure.

From its very inception, in the Legislature’s opening session, an atmosphere of rancor and hostility was set. Outgoing speaker Terie Norelli – in a ritual that had been enacted many dozens of times in the state’s centuries-old history – stood at the lectern to turn the gavel over to incoming Speaker O’Brien.

And something happened that had never in memory happened before. Norelli was booed by O’Brien’s supporters.

It all went downhill from there. On that same day, O’Brien and his forces voted to allow guns in the State House, even in the Legislature itself. Symbolic?

Most of O’Brien’s “accomplishments” were possible not because the legislative process worked as it should, with cooperation and compromise among the parties, but because – thanks to an abysmally low voter turnout of moderates in that 2010 election – Republicans, dominated by an inflamed, angry right-wing base, rammed things through with supermajority votes that for the most part couldn’t even be stopped by a gubernatorial veto.

O’Brien didn’t want cooperation and compromise. After all, he was dealing not with legislators of a different party but with implacable enemies, as he made clear over and over. And who cooperates with enemies?

With his supermajority he rammed through what amounted to a new hospital tax (which has since been ruled unconstitutional, which in turn caused the state’s bond outlook to be downgraded to negative). He lowered cigarette taxes even as he cut funds for mental health and other essential public health services, which left the state vulnerable to expensive litigation.

He slashed aid to higher education – a critical investment in our future – by nearly half. He weakened consumer protection measures, including a sadly successful effort to return legal loansharking to New Hampshire.

He completely repealed the state’s minimum wage, first enacted in the 1930s under John Winant, one of a long line of progressive Republican governors.

But some of O’Brien’s proposals were too much even for his supermajority. He failed to destroy Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire. He failed to repeal gay marriage or impose sharp restrictions on abortion, and he failed to force state withdrawal from a vital regional clean air pact.

He failed, despite his efforts to manipulate the outcome through scheduling chicanery, to override a gubernatorial veto of a so-called right-to-work law.

He failed to stop the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in New Hampshire despite his deliberately refusing the assistance of millions in federal dollars intended to ease the state’s participation. In fact, some observers believe the legislative hostility to the act was in part responsible for the fact that only one insurer entered the exchange this year, depriving Granite Staters of the range of choices available in most other states.

In all, O’Brien left a sorry record reflecting a sorry time in New Hampshire’s legislative history.

No one who respects civility, comity and cooperation should celebrate the short, terrible tenure of Speaker Bill O’Brien.

As he closed his remarks to the gathering, O’Brien exhorted the audience to “bring the revolutionary spirit” of 2010.

“Show courage,” he said. “Take back Concord.”

I have a better idea. Don’t.

(“Monitor” columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)

Legacy Comments27

democrat Mark Fernald was a state senator and ran twice for governor. Fernald agreed that the Legislature faced a huge budget challenge, writing at MarkFernald.com, “Budget experts warn that New Hampshire faces a deficit in its next two-year budget as large as $900 million.” - the short memory of liberals is no longer astonishing

The real nightmare is that we have so many citizens that firmly believe this garbage from the likes of GOP neanderthals like Bill O'Brien, such as the usual suspects who always post here who have nothing adult to say or propose. Individuals that live in a paranoid fantasy land who not accepted the fact that the world has changed in the last two centuries. Well, guess what "usual suspects " the world now has modern communications, modern medicine and modern education. Also, another little fact you, our "usual suspects" keep forgetting in your rants is that your white, Christian male-dominated worldview is an anachronism, because we live in a world in which everyone - no matter what their skin color, ethnic origin and political views - is entitled to be an equal partner in our communities - politically, socially and economically.

as long as they are indeed US citizens - funny how democrats always forget that

Per politifact... Republicans wrongly describes a $1 billion interim projection as a deficit, ignoring the state law that mandates a balanced budget and the fact that the Democrats actually produced a $17.7 million surplus. The Republican's twisting the reality of the state budgets for partisan reasons and leaving people with a false impression? We rate it False.

Oh well..politifact says its so ...so it must be.....isnt that the same politifact that gave obama lie of the year....while first reporting it half true??

An understanding of what is a "structural budget deficit" is required for liberals to talk on the subject. NH got a $ Billion in NObama bucks in 1 time spending that balanced their budgets. Responsible Republicans then had to CUT almost a BILLION in spending to balance the budget. Facts never ever are part of the democrats rhetoric.

using 1 time NObama Bucks to balance the NH budget created an ALMOST $1 BILLION STRUCTURAL DEFICIT LIBERALS .....SHEEEEESH

Constantly on this opinion page I see progressives berated for name calling. I have had my share of it. Yet here we have the former Speaker calling people who do not agree with him "enemies" and a letter to the editor on Friday calling retiring Speaker Norelli a 'functioning ignoramus". GWTW seems to think "crackpot rhetoric" refers to her/his side and should not be counted because they pay for the right to write crackpot hate posts. What difference does it make? It is almost worse to pay for the privilege of writing crack pot rhetoric than doing for fun.

You have a point tillie. Name calling is a symptom of the problem. And it's a symptom that presents itself in all political camps. The problem is partisan divisiveness and the increasingly impersonal, technology-driven, "screen-dominated" world we live in. And we're posting these comments to an online forum via the web via our computers . . . so you see evenwe am not immune!

Katy, you wrote: "t was the sort of crackpot rhetoric one sees scrawled anonymously in newspaper comment sections, not emanating from the mind and mouth of an elected political leader. Even if he is (fortunately) currently out-of-power, if not out of office entirely. That is frightening." That is exactly how thousands of readers feel about your weekly ranting and raving diatribe of certain beliefs. You will see them speak in November, by the way.

The REAL NIGHTMARE was waking up after 4 years of the democrats tyranny to find an almost $$$$$ 1 BILLION deficit. O'Brien then lead the Responsible Republicans to balance the budget with no new taxes.

I think we'll need a citation that the Democrats left a "$$$$$ 1 BILLION deficit"; that sounds (let's be polite here) "incorrect".

I see we are stilling using the fast and loose falsehoods. The 1 billion deficit has been debunked so many times that only the uninformed or just plain ignorant would believe it. But by all means let's not confuse issues with truth and real facts.

FACTS always prove the liberals narrative as WRONG - QUOTE: "estimate of the potential deficit was $820 million ..... That estimate was widely enough accepted that Mark Fernald, a former Democratic Sen. whose fiscal philosophy may be thought of as the inverse of mine, warned that “New Hampshire faces a deficit in its next two-year budget as large as $900 million.” For the liberals in the crowd $900 million is indeed "almost" $$$$1 BILLION

Let us not forget the "healthcare premiums are going up 90 percent in NH." Though I think they don't care if it is a lie because when it is repeated over and over people believe it.

I smell trolls. People usually shut up when real arithmetic rears its ugly head, especially after it's been hashed over and the righties have lost the argument. It's the Fox News methodology...keep saying it keep saying it keep saying it.....

Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi, IRS,IRS, IRS.

60% of real Americans want a full and open Benghazi investigation and 72% of real Americans want a full and open investigation

must be fun living in your world.

"It was the sort of crackpot rhetoric one sees scrawled anonymously in newspaper comment sections"...or as they are also known...paying customers. And as far as dealing with implacable enemies, wasn't it Obrein who said "We’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us,"??...Uh, no sorry, that was our current president. Crackpot rhetoric?? Apocalyptic language?? Well yeah!!! But don't worry, as a taxpayer, your share of the "punishment" is only about $150k.

Correct, valid observations. The Monitor, however, is never going to terminate Burns' ongoing, hateful and insulting rhetoric. You see, the management and staff of the Monitor believe as Burns does so she is an extension of their warped opinions. In fact, she is the deliver mechanism. That quote by Obama was to Univision on November 2, 2010: "'we're going to punish our enemies and we're going to reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us". What about "his kind of people", did Obama not say "we are the ones we have been waiting for"? It is stunning to read the intellectual dishonesty of an amateur journalist. It is amazing that she is still published when you could just copy and paste any of her columns and not notice that there was any original thought or intellectual honesty week after week.

Completely taken out of context again. Obama was speaking to Hispanics about their enemies who were not voting for an immigration bill. Why do conservatives do that all the time? If conservative do something stupid, lets find something liberals did to change the subject. Like a poster on here spending a whole paragraph to run down the bartender who taped Romney as if that made it ok somehow for Romney to be caught dismissing half the country because they wouldn't vote for him anyway.

HAHAHA....you make me laugh! |I got a 2-fer today...first the duckler story comments...now this! Anyway...read this....http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/11/01/us-usa-elections-obama-idUSTRE69929420101101.............(Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Monday he should not have used the word "enemies" to describe his political opponents as Republicans sought to make an issue of the comment a day before congressional elections. Obama, in an interview with talk radio host Michael Baisden, said, "I probably should have used the word 'opponents' instead of enemies."

That is what I said, O Confused One, and at least you said it right about Republicans for a change.

And has O'Brien ever said anything comparable about his over-heated rhetoric? Short answer: no. And the Carpers have led the cheers for Bully O'Brien from then to now.

Yes, he was speaking to Hispanics and telling them that others were enemies. Hispanics which he feels support him. However, this is very much like with O'Brien did, speaking to folks who support him. But Obama's comment can't be excused, it is a peek inside his demeanor and the way he really feels. He has said many, many things like this. He views anyone who does not think like he does as an "enemy".

Good point. It should also be noted that this poster has defended Cliven Bundy by claiming his statements were taken out of context in the same way s/he uses them to attack Obama. The problem with Bundy's full statement is that it only excuses his racism by revealing his ignorance. Often the two go hand in hand.

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