The Crankiest Republican
Of late, Mike Enzi is getting a lot of bad press from liberals who think him too conservative to be involved in the Gang of Six process. But so far, he's not been the problem. He's not been trashing reform in public and on Twitter. He's not been stoking the death panel talks or taking shots at the president. That's fallen to Chuck Grassley.
Which is something of a surprise. Olympia Snowe is the liberal Republican. Enzi is the conservative. But Grassley is supposed to be the responsible one. The high-minded former chairman of the Finance Committee with a long record of bipartisan dealings with Max Baucus and an unflappable Midwestern reserve. The adult in the room.
Instead, he's been the most volatile member of the talks.
A lot of the hostility has burst out from his Twitter feed. Who can forget him scolding Obama because "u think evrything is NAIL im no NAIL." If the tweets have been cranky, however, the town halls have gotten into actual crankery. On Wednesday, he fed the death panel nonsense, telling a crowd that "you have every right to fear. You shouldn't have counseling at the end of life. ... We should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma."
This is the guy, remember, who is serving as the linchpin of bipartisanship in the Senate.
Grassley, of course, would not be the first politician to soberly legislate behind closed doors and stoke the base from behind the podium. But Baucus and Conrad and Bingaman are risking a lot to sit in these talks. Many Democrats think they are harming health-care reform by insisting on a bipartisan proposal. But they're simply absorbing those blows, trusting that the product will be worth it. Grassley, conversely, is keeping up a public persona that would be perfectly consistent with dooming the bill. He's keeping open the option of profiting from the collapse of the bill. He's hedging. Which makes it very hard for Reid and the rest of the Democratic caucus to believe he's ready to make the hard compromises required to actually pass good legislation.
Photo credit: Bill O'Leary -- The Washington Post
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