If there is one thing that Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) regrets above all else, it must be the fact that either he or some forebear chose to mispronounce his name. The German diphthong “ei” is always pronounced “eye” – the English long “i” – while the diphthong “ie” is pronounced as the English long “e.” Thus, we have Wien, the capital city of Austria (pronounced “veen”) and wiener, a sausage often associated with that city. (Americans call it a hot dog.)
Wein (pronounced “vine”) is the German word for wine. (“Weiner” has no exact German translation.) Mr. Weiner’s mispronunciation of his name is very unfortunate, under the circumstances, since the English vernacular includes “wiener” to mean… well, moving right along…
(Just for the record – “Wiener-schnitzel” has nothing to do with hotdogs. It is a thin breaded veal cutlet popularized in Viennese cuisine. I mention it only to fulfill the educational purpose of this column.)
Mr. Weiner has been the butt of much coarse joking in the media on account of his having sent photos purported to be of his private parts to a female college student, via the internet. No doubt this is unseemly for a married man, and possibly even for a Congressman. Perhaps he should resign his office. His Democrat colleagues all want him to – or else are praying that a bus will run over him.
On the other hand, how much damage, of the kind congresspersons do, can the estimable Mr. Weiner accomplish if he is busy talking to the media about his underwear? (He has now asked for a leave of absence so he can obtain “treatment.”) If he resigned, his public barbecuing – much of it by his own party – could end, but then he might be replaced by another progressive who also thinks you solve problems by throwing federal money at them. Everything considered, I’ll stick with Mr. Weiner (hold the sauerkraut).
Republicans have also enjoyed much mirth over Mr. Weiner’s predicament, relishing (so to speak) his elevation to the status of supreme hotdog of the Democratic Party. Really, the treatment the Honorable Member has received seems a little unfair. Has anyone noticed that the congressman’s marriage to Huma Abedin – Hillary Clinton’s Muslim aide – was presided over by none other than Bill Clinton? (Think of what the pre-marital counseling sessions were like.) Now Mr. Weiner might have to worry about an Honor Killing (his own) by his wife’s relatives. But I digress…
To Republicans, my message is a little unconventional: take da Weiner off da grille (with or without da bun) and concentrate on a message that will help define your party positively. The Weiner scandal is a diversion that is keeping the public from focusing on serious problems the country is facing – e.g., the economy, gigantic federal deficits, unemployment, anemic new job creation, energy supplies (and prices!), the precarious future of entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, inflation, devaluation of the currency, shrinking home values, collapse of the building industry, etc., etc., etc.
Every day of media fixation on Anthony Weiner is another day wasted that might have been used to highlight the Obama administration’s failures. The Obama Brain-trust must be drinking champagne-toasts to Anthony Weiner every night (and maybe every morning). The Weiner-roast is a great blessing at a time of maximum danger for the Obama presidency. Anything that takes attention off its failures is a godsend.
Republicans won control of the House of Representatives, and near-parity in the Senate, in the 2010 elections because the public was alarmed at Democrats’ overspending and lack of seriousness about either the economy or the federal budget. All Democratic proposals for “helping” the economy have involved more federal spending. It is their answer for everything. Democrat majorities in both houses of Congress failed even to present a budget for FY2011 in 2010. Dems’ leadership left the ticking time-bomb of reversion to the Clinton tax-rates – scheduled for January 1, 2011 – to a lame-duck session.
Democrats spent like drunken sailors during the first two years of the Obama administration, and the public had finally had enough. (I offer apologies to drunken sailors everywhere for the slander of that comparison. No sailor – drunk or sober – ever spent like Barack Obama.)
Republicans promised to get serious about federal deficit-spending, and they have been as good as their word – although possibly not to the degree that Tea Party activists might have wished. Politics is the Art of the Possible. Whatever their failings of scale, though, they have certainly outdone President Obama’s pathetic proposals to cut a mere$4 trillion from federal expenditures over 12 years. (Some wags have suggested that he should have advertised this as cuts of $33 trillion over 100 years.)
I say “pathetic” because his “plan” barely touches deficits likely to exceed $21 trillion over those 12 years. By contrast, Rep. Ryan’s proposals – which passed the House, but not the Senate – would cut $6.2 trillion over 10 years – double Mr. Obama’s proposals. As things stand, however, a bill proposing either Mr. Obama’s cuts, or Mr. Ryan’s cuts, or any other plan of cuts, has not been presented to the president for his signature. We are at a complete impasse on a federal budget that is $1.7 trillion out of balance.
Commentators have voiced some puzzlement over Democrats’ failure to contribute materially to the budget “debate” – such as it is – and Mr. Obama’s obvious failure to lead. Instead, the president has joined the “hoo-hah chorus,” denouncing GOP budget proposals as “mean-spirited” attacks on the elderly, the lame, the halt and the blind.
The explanation for this non-engagement by Democrats is simple, as I see it. Mr. Obama and his party have calculated that the biggest political risk is proposing actual cuts that can then be shot at by critics and aggrieved parties affected by those cuts. The victory of Democrat Kathy Hochul in the special election for the House seat of New York’s 26th District was vastly instructive for her party. She appeared to win by running against Paul Ryan’s proposed Medicare cuts – although little notice was taken of the fact that a Tea Party candidate and the Republican candidate actually won a combined majority of the vote. While those two candidates were duking it out, Ms. Hochul sneaked in the back door with just 47%.
Notwithstanding these caveats, Democrats have seized on the Ryan budget proposals as their 2012 Miracle at the Marne, by which they hope to turn back the irresistible tide of public opposition to congressional overspending. In the simplest terms, everyone favors budget cuts, in general, but no one wants his part of the federal pie trimmed back. I am not the first to say that there is no dependable budget-cutting constituency. We shall see if Democrats’ strategy of running against the cutters is vindicated.
For their part, Republicans should hammer Democrats’ lack of serious engagement on these matters, and leave the Weiner-roast for the late-night comics. Enough, already! Let’s get back to work.