Once more, with feeling

ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING…. You probably think I’m going out of my way to pick on Chuck Grassley. I’m not, but let’s face it — he deserves the criticism.

Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa indicated Thursday he was no longer sure whether negotiators can reach a bipartisan deal in September, citing mounting public concern about excessive government spending and soaring federal deficits.

Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee which is attempting to draft a bipartisan health care measure, said in a telephone interview from Iowa with Kaiser Health News, that he was struck by the intensity of Iowans’ criticism of the health care proposals and “fear” of excessive federal spending during several weeks of town hall meetings throughout his state.

Asked whether he thought the six Democratic and Republican negotiators on the committee would be able to cut a deal when Congress returns from its summer recess next month, Grassley replied: “If you asked me that on Aug. 6, I would have said yes, I think so, September. But you’re asking me on Aug. 27 and you’ve got the impact of democracy in America. Everybody’s showing up at town meetings…. If town meetings are going to mean anything, if democracy is going to mean anything, then you listen to your people and you act accordingly.”

A few things. First, the folks who are “showing up at town meetings,” ranting and raving about reform, are angry because they don’t know what they’re talking about. They’ve been filled with rage, lies, and paranoia. Killing a necessary reform bill to placate ridiculous cries from gullible people is politics at its most inane. Responsible lawmakers do the right thing, even when misguided mobs whine about it. Letting temper tantrums, motivated by stupidity, dictate public policy only encourages more stupid temper tantrums.

Second, Grassley has a confused sense of who “everybody” is. Grassley has 3 million constituents. Let’s say, hypothetically, Grassley has heard angry right-wing screams from, say, 3,000 Iowans at town-hall events. That would mean the senator had heard strenuous opposition to reform from exactly 0.1% of his constituents. If he’s heard far-right town-hall enmity from 30,000 Iowans — a farfetched claim, to be sure — that would still only be 1% of the people Grassley represents.

He’s concerned about “democracy meaning something”? A clear majority of Americans — and a clear majority of Iowans — elected Barack Obama as president. His signature domestic issue was health care reform. “You listen to your people and you act accordingly.”

Grassley doesn’t give a damn about the deficit or screaming Teabaggers or government spending. He wants to kill health care reform. The only question now is whether congressional Democrats are prepared to help him with this goal.