Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Testing The Limits Of Sanity

Last night, as we began collecting information for today's commentary, we realized that so much of the information surrounding Monday's mass shooting in Washington, DC is still in flux, doing that story justice at this point, would be nearly impossible.

The shooter's identity has been confirmed, along with the number of killed and wounded, and the basic timeline also seems to be coalescing. That said, at the time we're putting together Tuesday's edition, investigators are far from finding a motive for the killings. Frankly, we can't help but think mental illness must have played some part.

As we stated in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting last December, there are multiple components to the gun violence and mass killing incidents in America, and our sorely underutilized American mental health care system is just one of those.

Still, stating with any certainty that the Navy Yard killer was insane is merely speculation at this point.

The nearly homicidal actions of the extremist tea partiers on the right, however, are totally nuts - especially on issues like shutting down the government and health insurance for all Americans.

As Noam Scheiber points out in the New Republic, and as Ezra Klein has been warning for some time over at the Washington Post's Wonkblog, the danger that the government will shut down two weeks from today is no crazy nightmare. As Scheiber details, sources in the White House make it clear that the President has no intention of giving in to the childish games House Republicans are attempting to play with the debt ceiling.

In fact, as Scheiber outlines, and Jonathan Bernstein highlights over at The Plum Line, Speaker Boehner is almost being incentivized to let a shutdown happen, to scare some members of the Republican caucus into realizing just how crazy the tea party extremists among them truly are.

Greg Sargent at The Plum Line takes those same GOP lawmakers, and looks at their actions through the lens of a recent Pew poll which proves that fewer than one in four Americans want Republican lawmakers to keep trying to kill Obamacare. That means that more than 75 percent of Americans either support Obamacare or they at least want Congress to make it work.

That may seem counterintuitive at first, but as Greg points out, those aren't the most important poll numbers in the batch. The key data in the Pew poll are the voting trends that prove most Republican Congresspersons and Senators aren't completely crazy. As Greg astutely points out, "Among Republicans who say they 'always' vote in primaries, 53 percent oppose the law and want lawmakers to make it fail."

In other words, that relatively small but passionate group of people who want Obamacare to fail - and indeed, want the whole federal government to shut down - are the people a key segment of House and Senate Republicans are pandering to, almost exclusively. Those members of Congress who are pandering to that elite bunch of right-wing nuts - at the expense of all their other constituents - aren't insane, so much as they are selfish.

That said, if those members of Congress allow their nuttiest constituents to blow up the federal government's finances, we certainly don't think the actions of those Congresspersons will be labeled in the history books as 'sane' or 'rational.'