Paul Begala is not improving the tone of debate in Washington. Oh well!
Yesterday the CNN commentator and Clinton pal suggested that Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina, reject all federal aid to his state attached to the stimulus bill if he disliked the bill so much.
Sanford, like many Republicans, objected to the large amount of spending in the bill. Now he's being told to put his money where his mouth is, something that nobody ever wants to hear.
From Democrats who don't want to be told by Republicans that if they love taxes so much they are free to overpay them, to Republicans who don't want to be told by Democrats that if they hate government spending so much they are free to decline government aid, there's a particular sort of schoolyard simplicity to this kind of argument. It's crude and childish, but it carries just enough of a whiff of truth to be profoundly irritating.
Naturally, Mark Sanford can dislike what he believes are wasteful provisions in the bill while still supporting those provisions that bring much-needed jobs and relief to his state. And indeed, most Republicans can find something to like in the stimulus bill -- just not enough to make them want to vote for it.
In Sanford's case, his own column on CNN.com really does make it sound like the only stimulus he approves of is tax cuts:
In truth, there are a variety of options outside a spending bill of unprecedented scope available in this time of considerable economic distress, including, but not limited to, cutting the payroll tax, opening foreign markets through an expansion of our trade agreements, and reducing our corporate tax, which is among the highest worldwide.We'll see what Sanford has to say after Begala called him out -- it will be genuinely interesting to see how he reconciles his objection to federal spending with his own state's historical reliance on government largesse -- but he'll probably come up with something along the lines of, "I know you are, but what am I?"
And thus will continue our high-toned Washington discourse, in which we can disagree without being disagreeable.