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Michael Zimmer: Extremism in the eye of the beholder

Have you noticed how frequently the word extremist gets thrown around in political discussions?
President Barack H. Obama accuses some Republicans of being extreme. Some Republicans accuse him of the exact same thing.
Oddly enough, Republicans tend to target one another with the extremist label. We can see that locally during our bruising GOP primaries. We can also see that intra-party family feud at the national level between folks like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX.
I wonder if charging people with whom we disagree with the "E" word is just a lazy way of making a personal attack. It would be nice to have some way of determining whether the extremist label fits or whether that term is just being tossed at an opponent with no actual justification.
Some folks, especially in Carroll County, may consider Gov. Martin O'Malley to be an extremist for prohibiting the law-abiding from possessing certain kinds of firearms.
Also consider O'Malley's repeated claim to have cut millions of dollars in state spending. I reached out to Del. Gail Bates, R-Dist. 9A, for some hard figures on spending under our governor. She's a candidate for Maryland Senate District 9 which will partially include Carroll County under the new map next year.
Her figures come right from the Department of Legislative Services. The actual record shows that the O'Malley era budgets have raised spending 25 percent since Fiscal Year 2008. Perhaps it would not be charitable to call the Governor's credibility gap on spending extreme. After all, he's hardly the first elected official to make claims during a campaign only to vote or govern in an entirely different manner. Sadly, the public has grown to expect such a difference in rhetoric versus reality all too often.
In Carroll County we've observed candidates make such interesting claims of wanting to cut taxes during a campaign season. We later observe the exact same candidates vote to approve higher taxes, such as a transfer tax on real property.
It was not so long ago that the commissioner board of Julia Gouge, Dean Minnich and Perry Jones asked our county delegation to sponsor a bill to empower the board of commissioners with the ability to impose a transfer tax. The majority shot this new tax down, but it was a split vote. You may want to consider such history when evaluating potential candidates for the General Assembly next year.
Some elected officials and even columnists like to hang the extremist label on those oriented to tea party ideals. The rise of the tea party was in response to out of control spending and excessive debt, among other things. According to the national debt clock, our federal debt is over $17 trillion.
Which is more extreme, to oppose policies that have created this intergenerational transfer of responsibility or to approve of such levels of debt?
When Obama was a U.S. Senator from Illinois, he sounded like a forerunner for the tea party when it came time to raise the debt limit in 2006. He voted not to raise the debt ceiling. He argued: "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. government can't pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government's reckless fiscal policies."
The president's record on raising the debt limit would seem to illustrate the old saying that one's position depends on one's position.
I guess in the end, extremism is in the eye of the beholder.

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