THE BLOG
05/26/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Republican Choice: Reality or Tea Bags

President Obama was a hell of a campaigner - smart, disciplined and highly realistic. He's brought those same qualities to the presidency itself, which has already begun to help the country while creating quite a quandary for the Republican Party. Recently, I wrote about the President's reality-based foreign policy. My contention, one that I maintain, is that he's clearing the rhetorical decks so that we can focus on the real nightmare scenario, the possible fall of the Pakistani government and the issue of 100 or more nuclear weapons ending up in the hands of the Taliban. In this context, conversations with Hugo Chavez seem entirely irrelevant.

Predictably, the Tea Baggers who pine for the golden era of "Mission Accomplished" were furious and flummoxed by a handshake. Of course, that was nothing compared to the ire that they feel toward the present administration for releasing documents that prove what everyone already knew: the United States did some naughty things in the past eight years, including the torture of people who were deprived of any legal rights. Mind you, the Fox News pundits don't dispute that we did something heinous: they are upset that we've admitted to it. Their patriotic, defender of liberty self-image doesn't square well with the smoking gun.

But just as the Republicans were preparing to stake their political futures on the defense of waterboarding, Obama has moved ahead with a concept that frightens the right wing even more - reconciliation. This is the little parliamentary maneuver that allows the majority party in the Senate to pass legislation with a simple majority, not the normal sixty. What's worse is that the procedure makes the almighty filibuster unusable. (The Republicans used this little trick twice under the previous administration to pass the federal budget.)

Reconciliation is something that the minority party should rightly detest, but what has the party of Limbaugh and Beck in full panic is that the President intends to use it to ensure health care reform. Obama has never threatened to do this on any other issue - not on education, energy or environmental reform. Health care is his priority, and while he'd prefer to have the Republicans on board, he's letting everyone know that he and 59 Senate Democrats will not hand the GOP a veto.

Republicans, listen up: resist the urge just to be naysayers. In the short-term, you'll feel terribly macho accusing Obama of being a crypto-communist, but in the long-term, you'll be missing a historic opportunity to participate in the solution to a vexing problem that makes life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness less like likely. In other words, be realists, not tea baggers.

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