In the Arena

Bennett Tea-Bombed

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Sen. Bob Bennett is a standard-issue conservative, a reliable, down the line Party-of-No voter…who, on occasion, bestirred himself to cast a bipartisan vote–or, in one extremely admirable case, co-sponsor a bipartisan health care reform bill that was simpler, more equitable and more radical than than the mish-mosh that Congress passed (the Wyden-Bennett Healthy Americans Act). For this, and for his longevity in office, he was defenestrated by the Utah Republican party today.

I never met the man, but his statement today certainly was classy:

“The political atmosphere obviously has been toxic and it’s very clear that some of the votes that I have cast have added to the toxic environment,” an emotional Bennett told reporters, choking back tears.

“Looking back on them, with one or two very minor exceptions, I wouldn’t have cast any of them any differently even if I had known at the time they were going to cost me my career.”

We are in a moment when anger seems more important than experience or wisdom. Sometimes anger is justified. Right now, a sober review of the problems we face in a very unstable world requires something more: it requires a judicious national conversation about the decisions we make as a people. Are we spending too much or too little? Are we taxing too much or too little? If we’re spending and taxing too much, which services need to be curtailed–and I mean, real services that cost real money, like defense and entitlements. If we can’t decide what to cut, then perhaps we need to tax ourselves more–if so, how and what should we tax?

The fact that we can’t seem to have this sort of conversation right now, that’s it is ripped away from the vast majority of decent Americans by telecharlatans and infotainers, does not speak well for our ability to survive as the greatest nation in the history of the world. The departure of Senator Bob Bennett is a small event in a national tidal wave of witless extremism and thoughtlessness.