Grant Bosse: Wanted: grown-ups in N.H. politics
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks before signing a bill abolishing capital punishment in the state during a ceremony in Annapolis, Md., Thursday, May 2, 2013. Maryland is the first state south of the Mason-Dixon Line to repeal the death penalty. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Former Republican state Sen. Jim Rubens answers questions after announcing his plans to run against incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Wednesday Sept. 18, 2013 in Concord, N.H. Rubens describes himself as a private venture investor, and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1998. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaeen arrives in the rain to promote New Hampshire tourism at Weirs Beach in Laconia, N.H. Tuesday July 2, 2013. Sen. Shaheen, announced that global marketing efforts to promote the U.S. as a travel destination is starting to pay off(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
In my grouchier moments, I often complain about how the New Hampshire Legislature wastes so much time and energy debating do-nothing resolutions, like designating the Official State Vegetable or Official State Color. These bills often stem from requests from Cub Scouts or elementary school classes, and I bemoan the fact that fourth-graders are in charge at the State House.
I’m beginning to think fourth-graders would be an improvement.
The immaturity and irresponsibility that passes for politics today is staggering. I’ve got nothing against snarky comments and the occasional stunt to draw attention to an issue. But it’s gotten to the point that we just can’t take politicians seriously.
Take for instance the false outrage when health care expert Avik Roy proposed a low-cost, high-deductible plan as an alternative to expanding current Medicaid benefits to higher-income people. Roy presented the broad outlines of such a plan before the Commission to Study the Expansion of Medicaid Eligibility, which you would think would be interested in studying the costs and benefits of various way to expand Medicaid eligibility.
Apparently not. Roy’s testimony hadn’t stop echoing through the halls of the Legislative Office Building before the high-pitched shrieks of Democrats drowned it out.
I’m not saying they have to agree with Roy’s ideas. They clearly prefer massive increases in federal entitlements to any consumer-based approach to lowering health care costs, and that’s okay. But people purporting to study such a complex subject should avoid instantaneous demonization of new ideas, unless they don’t care about their own credibility.
Perhaps the most juvenile political spat of the last week broke out following the announcement that Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley would headline the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in November. The Republican State Committee sniped that Democrats were bringing in a liberal income-tax supporter and “third-tier presidential candidate.” Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley responded by mocking a GOP fundraiser with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. I wish they would both go to their rooms so the grown-ups could finish talking.
First of all, New Hampshire loves third-tier presidential candidates. They keep our hotels and political hacks in business. Second, O’Malley served as inspiration for The Wire’s Tommy Carcetti, one of the best television characters ever created. The smart, ambitious and casually corrupt Carcetti illustrated the failure of political institutions on a show dedicated to the failure of institutions. And finally, I don’t care enough about party heads bickering about ticket sales to have a third point.
Of course, the grandstanding isn’t confined to New Hampshire. In Washington, Sen. Ted Cruz is attempting to set the international indoor record. The Texas Republican has jumped out in front of the defund ObamaCare effort and promises to block any bill that keeps government running unless it also strips funding for the health care law.
Cruz has spent the past month building himself up as a champion of conservative principles beset by a herd of RINOs. But now he admits that he doesn’t have the votes to prevent Harry Reid and his Democratic colleagues from restoring ObamaCare funding to the continuing resolution passed by the House this week.
Lots of people have been trying to tell this to Cruz, but he wasn’t listening. Faced with certain defeat on the Senate floor, Cruz now insists that his doomed plan can work. If the House and Senate end up shutting down the government, Cruz thinks the public will blame President Obama for refusing a sign a bill that never made it to his desk.
Cruz is making it harder to get rid of a law that’s reached Michael Bay levels of disaster. ObamaCare should be defunded, delayed and eventually repealed. I don’t disagree with his goal. But his “hold my breath until I turn blue” parliamentary tactics discredit that position.
But even Cruz hasn’t been acting as childishly as our own Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. As former state senator Jim Rubens announced his campaign to challenge Shaheen next year, the Democrat’s camp was shamelessly peddling a groundless smear that Rubens blamed working women for a rise in mass shootings.
Rubens, a hardcore policy wonk known for his expertise on electric rates, school choice and gambling, wrote a book a few years ago called OverSuccess. It includes a chapter arguing that men face greater social pressure to succeed, and increased failure has contributed to increased male violence, among other social ills. I’m not persuaded by Rubens’s conclusions, but it’s a thoroughly researched, thoughtfully presented attempt to tackle real problems.
Shaheen’s camp responded by calling Rubens a sexist pig. Clearly, she’d prefer to be running against Todd Akin. She should be ashamed. But this is the same candidate who once – in a flap about legislation to ban “crush” videos – accused Sen. John E. Sununu of supporting kitten killing. Maybe she just doesn’t expect anyone to take her seriously.
(Grant Bosse is editor of New Hampshire Watchdog, an independent news site dedicated to New Hampshire public policy, and a senior fellow at the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy.)