GOP talk of ‘sensible middle’ makes no sense

We keep hearing that “Obama should move to the center.” A variation on this theme is that the president should find the “sensible middle” on policy.

But what the heck is the middle, given America’s screwball partisan rhetoric? Such appeals — mostly made by Republicans and “centrist” Democrats who need a compass — are meaningless, as the following example illustrates:

Kimball Rasmussen is an energy executive who travels the West with a slick presentation purporting to address concerns over climate change. CEO of Utah-based Deseret Power, Rasmussen downplays the threat of global warming with cute cartoons and a pickle barrel of plain talk. He ends by “debunking” the myths about global warming.

The myths happen to be of Rasmussen’s own creation, carefully worded to misrepresent the findings of mainstream climatologists. And his sources include some of the more tainted global-warming “skeptics.” One of his scientific experts, Christopher Horner, is actually a lawyer at the right-wing Competitive Enterprise Institute. Another is Dr. Roy Spencer, whose calculations have been widely discredited by his peers and who, by the way, also questions evolution.

At the end of his folksy talk, Rasmussen implores the audience to find a “sensible middle” in thinking about climate change. Well, if one side says that the moon is made of lunar rock and the other that it’s made of green cheese, is the sensible-middle position that the moon is half-green cheese?

Switch to health care. After Democrats stripped the public option out of the Senate’s bill and deleted a plan to let those over 55 join Medicare — two things so-called conservatives opposed — Republicans cynically implored Democrats to meet them halfway on health care. Halfway from where?

Other than their call to reform medical malpractice laws, Republicans have virtually no respectable ideas on fixing health care. Making up nonsense about government-run “death panels” is the level they’ve been working on.

The argument that the public option was merely a sop for the Democrats’ liberal base was spread both by demagogues and people who should have known better. Framing the public option as such diverted attention from its purpose: to contain what private insurers could charge for subsidized coverage. Real conservatives would have liked the idea of protecting the taxpayer.

Most Republicans aren’t conservatives at all. They’re corporate socialists. The party’s idea of market solutions is to see how many taxpayer dollars they can shovel into private coffers. Recall the Medicare drug benefit, which was designed to enrich drug companies and insurers — while being entirely paid for with borrowed money.

Spiraling health care costs have put the American economy in peril, but the alleged party of prosperity doesn’t care. Confusing the public is easy, especially at a time of economic trauma, and the Republicans’ masters in the health care industry are delighted with the status quo. You see, it’s politics, not policy.

Now that they’ve come close to killing efforts to stem skyrocketing health care costs, Republicans are turning to budget deficits. In a show of crashing hypocrisy, they’re now pleading with Democrats to “work with us.”

Last month, as the world’s markets grew jittery over our rising debt, Republicans strangled Senate legislation that would have established a “Bipartisan Task Force for Responsible Fiscal Action.” Seven Republicans who co-sponsored the bill voted against it.

(The Tea Party people should remember their names: Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, John McCain of Arizona, John Ensign of Nevada, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Robert Bennett of Utah, Sam Brownback of Kansas and James Inhofe of Oklahoma.)

So this call to work with Republicans and find a political center is flimflam in overdrive. Americans’ anger is understandable, but the public must be discerning about which bums to throw out.

Froma Harrop is a Providence Journal columnist. Her e-mail address is

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