Carroll County Times

Jim Lee: Play with fire, expect to get burned

Republicans would have a far better chance of beating President Barack Obama in the upcoming election if they hadn't dug in on their philosophy of opposing everything he did for the past two years, because now a lot of what they have done is coming back to bite them.

Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank had an interesting column last week about how candidate Mitt Romney still hasn't released details on how he intends to cut $5 trillion in government spending over the next decade. But the part of the column I found interesting was where Milbank talked about the "emergency" hearing called by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, a Republican, to look into alleged security failures that contributed to the deaths of four people, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, in Libya.

Milbank noted "For fiscal 2013, the GOP-controlled House proposed spending $1.934 billion for the State Department's Worldwide Security Protection program - well below the $2.15 billion requested by the Obama administration. House Republicans cut the administration's request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012. (Negotiations with the Democrat-controlled Senate restored about $88 million of the administration's request.) Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans' proposed cuts to her department would be 'detrimental to America's national security' - a charge Republicans rejected."

So Republicans demanded cuts, got them, and now want to blame Obama for security failures that they themselves helped create and were warned about.

It's like starting a fire in your living room and then blaming the fire department for not putting out the flames before your house burns down.

Republicans also are quick to blame Obama for the drop in the nation's credit rating, even though it was their own hard-headed obstructionist battles over what had previously been a routine thing - increasing the debt ceiling - that led to the downgrade.

Many Republicans, including candidate Mitt Romney, decried the auto industry bailout and want to cut government programs, which will directly result in job losses, and in the next sentence they blast Obama for the high unemployment rate.

Flip-flops on issues by candidates and political parties is something we've all pretty much come to expect during election season. Romney's support of health-care reform as governor of Massachusetts and his opposition to it today is mainly because he needs to appeal to his Republican base, even if in recent weeks he has flipped again and now says he supports many of the elements of the reform.

And successful candidates of both parties are adept at pandering to their audience, telling them what they want to hear and then downplaying what they said when they speak to a different constituency. But it is a different animal entirely - and I'm not referring to Big Bird here - when a party or an elected official creates a problem and then blames the other party when things get ugly.

I can respect those who think that massive budget cuts are necessary to bring the deficit under control. But I lose that respect quickly when the same people who propose cuts immediately blame someone else when there is fallout from their actions.

At least take a little personal responsibility. That's supposed to be a hallmark of the Republican platform.

If you are going to cut spending for an agency that warns it will pose a security risk, then you need to take responsibility when the risk becomes a reality.

If you are going to play chicken with the debt ceiling, take responsibility when your actions result in a lowering of our credit rating.

If you are going to stand firm on reducing the size of government and opposing bailouts, then recognize that your actions play a role in higher unemployment.

The trouble for Republicans now is that the fires they've been setting for the past two years are coming back to burn them now, and it is liable to cost Mitt Romney, a life-long moderate who has shown he can work across party lines, a shot at the presidency.