By David Swanson
Two years ago, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, David Obey, screamed at a friend of mine, Tina Richards, denouncing “idiot liberals” who are foolish enough to suggest that opposing a war should involve ceasing to fund it.
In October of this year, Obey began speaking as if he’d joined the idiot liberals. No longer was he going to end wars by funding them, as he’d proposed in 2007 (and as he’d followed through on with a staggering lack of success). Henceforth, for Obey, “support the troops” was not going to mean recklessly sending people off to kill and die in criminal and counterproductive crusades funded by Chinese loans. From now on, Obey was going to admit that he could (not would, but could) stop the wars by stopping the funding.
In November, Obey introduced a bill to create a new tax to pay for ongoing wars. This was a dramatic and almost unprecedented media coup. Talking heads on our televisions were forced to admit that wars cost money and that there are other things that the money could be used for. Allow that sort of talk to go on for too long and you’re bound to have people start pointing out the damage that military spending has done to our economy. What to do?
Not to worry. Obey’s 15 minutes will be cut short by Obey himself. He’s made clear that his talk of a war tax is just talk, that he has no intention of trying to enact it, and that he fully intends to vote for every dime the president demands to pay for any and all wars and escalations. No conflict brewing there. No man bites dog story. No Democratic congress member finds a spine headline.
So what is Obey doing, if he’s not actually trying to defund wars? He’s trying to influence a president through public commentary, or rather through public announcements that there is a way he (Obey) could take action although of course he won’t. Or, in a slight variation on that interpretation, Obey is trying to fool any idiots out and about in the land. Obey wants you to think that by talking about the immorality of funding wars, which he continues to fund without limit, he has done something moral.
In short, Obey still thinks you’re an idiot. Only now, rather than denouncing you as misinformed and misguided, he’s flattering you as on the very right track. And then he’s insulting you by assuming that a gesture in the direction of giving a damn will be satisfactory.
Congress members have come to believe that better pointless talk is all Americans require. As pointless talk goes, Obey’s is suddenly some of the best. But Congressman Alan Grayson brought in over a half million dollars in a day recently for simply saying bad things about Dick Cheney. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers held a pretend-impeachment hearing last summer at which he announced that nobody would be impeached no matter what was heard in the hearing. Conyers began the event by bragging about all the pointless hearings he’d held over the previous three years, as if they had been ends in themselves.
Talk, talk, talk. Talk is cheap. Or, in this case, unbelievably expensive. If members of the House of Representatives do not stop putting our money where their mouths are not, we will see eternally expanding wars bankrupt us financially, morally, internationally, and legally.
Rather than playing an idiot liberal on TV, David Obey should take on the challenge of becoming one for real. He would quickly discover the wisdom and courage required, as well as the gratitude and support that would spring up around him.
David Swanson is the author of the new book “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union” by Seven Stories Press. You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town: https://davidswanson.org/book.