2011-08-26 / Columnists

The Rockaway Irregular

Two For One?
Commentary by Stuart W. Mirsky

There are some lines that never get crossed. Sometimes we’re so fixed in our positions, so wedded to our beliefs, that we can’t see others’ viewpoints or consider that they might be right and we could be wrong. Reading last week’s opinion piece in this paper by newbie Wave columnist Daniel Solomon, and a news article with his byline (Turner Campaign Courts Controversy), reminded me of just how unbridgeable some divides really are.

Mr. Solomon reports on a controversy he tells us was recently stirred up by Congressional candidate Bob Turner in the race for Anthony Weiner’s former seat to represent the 9th Congressional District (of which we are a part). Turner’s team ran a TV commercial in the closely contested race comparing their candidate’s position on the recent World Trade Center mosque controversy with that of Democrat David Weprin, Turner’s opponent, who, unlike Mr. Turner, has voiced no objections to the mosque’s prospective placement. It’s really a nonissue, Mr. Solomon opines in his news piece, because the intended site is blocks away from the destroyed Trade Center (where a building, fatally damaged from debris from the felled towers, now stands). Besides, the mosque was set to include an Islamic cultural center and a swimming pool. But that “didn’t stop Republicans from making hay over the issue,” Mr. Solomon added.

It also didn’t stop Mr. Solomon from segueing into a second attack on Bob Turner in the same news article, labeling him as insincere in his support for fiscal restraint and his commitment to “preserving the social safety net.” After soundly skewering the Republican candidate for allegedly shifting his positions, Mr. Solomon concluded that it’s “doubtful . . . the conservative’s mea culpa will silence the Weprin campaign . . .” Well, okay, I thought, it looked like a straight news article with Mr. Solomon’s byline, which even appears elsewhere in the paper on other pieces of reportage. But it sounded like something else.

Sure enough, further into the paper there was Mr. Solomon’s own column and it made many of the same points, albeit in the context of a broad attack on Republicans and conservatives and their philosophy of governance. So Mr. Solomon claimed a twofer in that week’s Wave, two opinion pieces for the price of one!

The column turned out to be a lengthy screed which, after a blistering attack on all things Republican, proceeds to tell us that our nation “can ill afford [Republicans’] terrorist tactics” which, he had previously informed us, consisted of their recent fight to reduce our growing national debt by linking raising the country’s debt ceiling to spending cuts. Alas, “President Obama and the Democrats are too timid and too fearful to stand up . . . “ Mr. Solomon opines while completely ignoring the bruising battle Democrats in Congress actually fought to forestall real cuts for months, thus dragging out the debate until we were facing a major crisis of international confidence. Nor does he credit the president’s own attempts to get a “clean debt ceiling bill,” i.e., one with no cuts at all. Mr. Solomon wanted more of them. He wanted them to stop the Republican drive for fiscal responsibility in its tracks.

Democrats used to have a free hand, with massive majorities in both houses of Congress and the White House, but their own overreaching, by forcing a hugely bureaucratic, and likely unconstitutional, healthcare bill through Congress against minority Republican opposition and general voter discontent on a strictly partisan basis, changed that. Nancy Pelosi famously told the nation back then that we had to wait for the bill’s passage to see what was in it and then we’d love it and, later, that she didn’t need to compromise to find a bill that would be palatable to the majority of voters. She could even afford to lose forty seats of her majority in Congress and still have the votes, going forward, to implement the tax increases needed to fund all the massive new spending.

In the event, she and her caucus lost in excess of fifty seats as the nation rebelled against the breathtaking partisanship of her party. The canary in the coal mine for the Democrats, who had so blithely ignored the nation’s real needs for an improved economy by initiating an historic spending binge on top of pre-existing deficits, was the surprise upset win of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts in a special election to replace Massachusetts Senator Teddy Kennedy. What followed ended the Democrats’ monopoly on Washington power. The strident tone and polemical content of Mr. Solomon’s columns (two in a single edition of this paper it now turns out!) are the evidence for just how concerned the left has become over those losses, contrary to Pelosi’s former breezy dismissal of the prospect.

With the Congressional seat in our district now in play, as the one-time Kennedy seat had been in Massachusetts just a few years ago, another canary looks to be singing and some who hear it are keen to shut it up. Mr. Solomon’s column, after castigating Republicans for seeking a balanced budget and spending cuts before agreeing to allow the nation’s debt ceiling to rise again, and after decrying Republican opposition to more stimulus and more taxes and still more borrowing to pay for it all, chalks the Republican position up to nothing more principled than a hunger for power and a desire to “make the United States a crueler, more inequitable place.”

“Bob Turner,” the Republican nominee (in the race for the former Weiner seat), Mr. Solomon adds, “promises to be another shill for Big Money and an enemy of working families and the social safety net.” You’d never know from this that our country is spending itself into geopolitical irrelevancy on a track to fiscal disaster and that Republicans like Turner have pledged themselves to put us back on a fiscally sound course. Mr. Solomon makes clear that he’s an unabashed supporter of more spending and more taxes and whatever added borrowing is needed to keep it all going. Republicans in Congress, in his view, are ill-intentioned party poopers who would put the brakes on all that. Mr. Solomon won’t tolerate it. Turner, he tells us, is “one more Tea Party terrorist” and part of “a caucus full of loons ready to don their suicide vests and take the country with them.”

Mr. Solomon has Bob Turner’s number, he tells us, and it’s about blowing up his own country in the guise of protecting it so Republicans can do their “right wing social engineering” while “killing unions, starving anti-poverty programs, shredding environmental protections, and cutting food safety standards . . . long on the wish list of Wall Street.” Mr. Solomon leaves nothing out in this full bore charge against Republicans. As he notes, though, this upcoming special election, both for the Congressional race and for State Assembly, featuring Breezy Point resident and Republican district leader Jane Deacy in a run against Chuck Schumer protege Phil Goldfeder of Far Rockaway, is extremely important.

Mr. Solomon ends his tirade by telling us that Republicans “use the politics of fear and smear and appeal to peoples’ deepest worries and basest emotions” – as if fearing to see our nation plunged into a Greece-like abyss and relegated to national impotency is somehow disgraceful and as if spending more than you have ought to be the norm. Perhaps Mr. Solomon should be forgiven his excessive zeal for his passionately held beliefs, now endangered, he rightly fears, by the upcoming elections. Perhaps his anguish at the prospect of losing a much watched Congressional race has turned him into an angry harridan like so many others on his side of the political spectrum, much against his will. Perhaps even his obvious intolerance for the opinions of others should not be held against him. But what I can’t help wondering is how views like his end up filling the pages of a respected local newspaper, both in its news columns and in those parts of the paper dedicated to the expression of opinion, where they rightly belong.

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