The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is….Everything!

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I recently watched the latest Ken Burns’ PBS epic “The Roosevelts,” and it was totally great and I heartily recommend it, but the whole 14 hours were worth it just to learn that President Teddy Roosevelt, undoubtedly our most machismo president, once was on the stump giving a campaign speech outdoors when somebody in the crowd shot him from close range in the chest, and Teddy kept talking for another hour! When he finished his speech he was taken off and treated for the gunshot wound. By the end of it, I’m betting even the guy who tried to assassinate Roosevelt voted for him!

Woo. They made’em tough back then.

Watching the documentary, it’s hard not to conclude there are a lot of places where we don’t stack up favorably, bravado-wise, with our recent ancestors. Turn on cable news, and there’s round-the-clock hysteria about how ISIS is the greatest threat ever known to mankind and they’re sneaking through our borders as we speak and how it will take “years,” if ever, before the group is defeated, because they’re not an army but an “ideology.” And then I compare it with “The Roosevelts” WW II footage of hundreds of thousands of jack-booted Nazi soldiers goose-stepping as one and giving the “Sieg Heil!” salute and I’m thinking, “Hey, that’s an ideology…” and the Germans had large armies and tanks and fighter planes and not only that but the Japanese and Italians were their allies and they had fanatical armies, too, but instead of someone like Senator Lindsey Graham staring wide-eyed into the TV cameras and braying, “We’re all gonna die!” because he got freaked out over one hooded ISIS soldier standing in the desert with a knife beheading a sole journalist. Back then we had Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Mr. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” rallying the nation and we not only defeated Japan and helped to bring down Germany in four short years, but also transformed the United States almost overnight into a world super power, and I think, “Something here doesn’t add up.” If Lindsey Graham had lived during the time of that WWII footage, he would’ve shrieked, “The only thing we have to fear….is EVERYTHING!! RUNNNN!”

And speaking of things not adding up, let’s talk about Kansas. Deeply conservative Republican Sam Brownback is the state’s current governor and running for re-election next month, and let’s put it this way: if you again took footage from “The Roosevelts,” but this time from FDR’s First Hundred Days in office, taking charge at the depths of The Depression and immediately implementing New Deal programs, and ran that footage backwards, the end result would look remarkably like what took place in Kansas during Brownback’s first term.

Brownback cut taxes and social programs, turned down tens of millions in federal grants to help set up the Affordable Care Act, and the results are a balance deficit, downgrading of Kansas’ credit rating by Wall Street, dramatic cuts in education, job stagnation, with six of seven of Kansas’ neighbors having better job growth, etc. Brownback’s defense is his plan needs “more time.”

Both FDR and Brownback were similar in that they admitted that were experimenting, basically just trying things out in the hopes that they would work. The difference is, FDR’s succeeded, while the governor’s were a disaster.

The remarkable thing is that Brownback is in serious contention to be re-elected. Hence the slogan emblazoned on the state’s license plates: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I’m Kansan!”

Kansas, I know you’re sick of the question, but it must be asked: “Seriously. What the IS wrong with you?”

Well, we have a solid clue. In last week’s NPR program “On Point with Tom Ashbrook” the show focused on the debacle that is Kansas and one of the panelists was Wint Winter, a former Republican State Senator and a founding member of “Republicans for Kansas Values” who backed Brownback but now is considering not voting for him, and asked him what went wrong. And Winter said, “Well, Sam promised us he would cut taxes and spending, etc., but he promised us that that would Increase revenues and promote job growth and economic growth, and all ships would rise with the tide, but the results have been completely the opposite.”

And then – this is the head-shaking part – Winter blames that on “Brownback’s incompetence.” Not, “Gee, maybe those economists who warned us that Sam’s plan was crazy and we would drive ourselves over a cliff were right,” but more like, “Gee, Sam promised us that if we drove east from Kansas we would end up in California, and we trusted him, but somehow we landed in New York! Sam doesn’t know how to drive.”

In fact, Brownback wasn’t incompetent at all. Quite the opposite. Almost everything he proposed, he passed. That was the problem. But somehow, for a lot of residents, it’s not sinking in that they would’ve been better off if he were incompetent and couldn’t pass his legislation.

So, it might take another term of Brownback before the populace takes a look at the barren landscape that once was their home and sighs, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”

About Stan Sinberg

Stan is an award-winning newspaper columnist, radio commentator, and features writer whose humor has appeared in everything from the NY Times to WSJ and MAD Magazine. Stan is a native New Yorker living on the west coast. His website is www.stansinberg.com and you can email him at stan@stansinberg.com or follow him on Twitter @ssinberg1
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