Talk a lot, say nothing

By Shane Cronin

Politicians today are paralyzed with the fear of fragmenting the electorate: the feelings of minorities, the Tea Party, liberals and any other group above which an umbrella can be suspended are carefully calculated into every remark our politicians make. Therefore, the interviews and speeches they give, and even the tweets they publish, are rhetoric-heavy and substance-light. In 2011 we find ourselves in an environment in which any speech can be considered offensive. This is as true for newly-elected Speaker John Boehner as it is for President Barack Obama.

This is precisely why anyone who thought John Boehner was going to lead a conservative resurgence in 2011 was fooling himself. First elected to the House of Representatives some 20 years ago, the guy is a career Washington politician. Despite attempts to pad his resume with the “regular Joe” credentials (such as his teary-eyed reelection night address in November) that all out-of-touch elites love to tell us about, no one believes that Mr. Perpetual Florida Tan started out on Capitol Hill in a pair of overalls and a straw hat.

In addition to the character facade, Boehner also has shown himself to be exactly the wishy-washy grandstander that Americans are through with.

He couldn’t have made this more evident than in his interview with NBC’s Brian Williams just days after accepting the speakership.

When Williams asked the Speaker to, “Name a [federal] program right now that we could do without,” Boehner was seemingly caught off guard. “I don’t think I have one off the top of my head,” he replied.

Two decades in Congress and another ten in local and state government, and John Boehner – Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and so-called “conservative” – can’t name one program Americans can do without entirely or at a reduced level?

Aside from Obamacare – the obvious answer – he should have also been able to recite a list of gristly programs to trim from the fatty federal budget. After all, aren’t spending cuts what the man campaigned upon?

Conservative columnists and policy institutes routinely cite the Education Department (roughly $70 billion) as the poster child for superfluous federal spending. The Department of Transportation is another agency due for a pruning. How about international economic assistance? The Cato Institute proposes cutting $3.5 billion in that area. Then there are agricultural subsidies. If there was ever a case to be made for bipartisanship, eliminating farm subsidies is it. But Mr. Boehner mentioned none of these.

In another embarrassing, yet perhaps equally revealing moment for Boehner, Williams asked, “[To] the kid who’s 16 in Ohio, writes you on Facebook, Mr. Speaker, how do I do what you just did … Who’s gonna give me the shot? … This has been called the first American generation without the hope that life’s gonna be better for them.”

Instead of the oft recycled, “Get a decent education, work hard,” line that Boehner served as a cold dish, it would have been more honest for him to advise aspiring political youths to, “Shut up, and keep a good poker face.”

The repercussions of the Tucson, Arizona shooting earlier this month, I hope, will not further emasculate our politicians – many of whom are taking the blame for the incident without any evidence to support such claims. In the wake of the tragedy, several Democrat congressmen are advocating for the resuscitation of the Fairness Doctrine or similar legislation. Ruled unconstitutional almost 25 years ago, the Fairness Doctrine is merely a ploy to quiet conservative talk radio and websites, Fox news and other popular mediums that are out of sync with the social justice agenda.

The problem American politics faces today is that our elected officials don’t stand for anything anymore. They say nice things about fixing the economy, but it’s still broken. They say nice things about bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., but where are they? They say nice things about putting America “back on track,” whatever that means. The only tough question the politicians of today tackle is, “What is the least bumpy road through the next campaign?” Unfortunately, the answer is usually a lot of nice talk with little actually said.

My advice to Mr. Boehner and the rest of his party is end the symbolic words and gestures routine. Now in her fourth year of economic recession, America has no meaningful plan for recovery. Instead of “what say you, Mr. Boehner,” I ask, “what do you?” You love to talk about “getting people back to work,” but you’ve yet to implement a plan.

Shane Cronin is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]